Gov. Gavin Newsom of California has asked the United States Supreme Court to weigh in on a case he says has “paralyzed” state and local governments from taking action against homeless encampments. City of Grants Pass v. Johnson is an amicus brief in which Newsom pressed the Supreme Court to clarify that local and state governments shall take reasonable measures to confront the homelessness crisis, which poses health and safety dangers to individuals living in encampments and communities.
A lawsuit from Grants Pass, Oregon, overturned a local anti-camping ordinance that would have made it illegal for people to sleep in public spaces. This case built upon Martin v. City of Boise, which held that communities could not criminalize persons for sleeping in public because they lacked the resources to provide adequate beds for their residents. According to Newsom’s amicus brief, the courts have turned Martin’s reasonable limit into an insurmountable barrier, making it impossible for municipalities to enact basic time and place limits to keep streets safe and encourage the homeless to find shelter.
Legal counsel for Newsom argued, “Our government officials are caught, at risk of suit for taking action, but also answerable for the repercussions of inactivity.”
More than $15 billion has been allocated by Newsom as governor to housing and homelessness, and he has launched programs to reward local governments that lower the hurdles to affordable housing while calling out the counties and cities that refuse to address the problem of affordable housing.
According to Newsom’s office, injunctions against anti-camping regulations are given “not by policymakers or democratically elected authorities, but federal courts.” He contended that the courts are consistently overstepping their bounds in blocking a wide range of reasonable initiatives to safeguard homeless people and the general public from the dangers posed by unregulated encampments.