The Grants Pass decision

I don’t write about homelessness much here because I don’t know enough to feel like I have much useful to add to the words and work of those who do. But I do think about it a lot. I also think a lot about the challenges of collective choice and collective action. Which is at the heart of this, from Steve Berg:

Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

It’s important to note that this case may prevent certain lawsuits, but it doesn’t force communities to take any specific actions or to actively engage in criminal punishment of unsheltered people. Instead, it makes it easier for communities to do exactly that if they choose.

Elected officials who insist on going down that path will quickly learn that it won’t change the realities of homelessness. Criminal penalties such as fines, tickets, and arrests make homelessness worse, and cost communities a lot of money that should otherwise be spent on housing, supportive services, and street outreach. With record numbers of people entering into homelessness systems for the first time (more than 18,000 people per week in 2023, according to new U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] System Performance Measure data) we must remind leaders that what solves homelessness is housing, together with supportive services needed to help people stabilize in housing. And these are investments that benefit the entire community, not just folks who are experiencing homelessness.

Of concern in the majority opinion in this case are the statements that basically repeat the “homeless by choice” contention. These comments were based on gratuitous statements in amicus briefs in the case, written by people who are looking to cast blame on people other than themselves. The only choice involved in homelessness is the choice by alleged leaders to ignore the housing needs of people with the lowest incomes.

We know what to do to end homelessness. We still have homelessness because we haven’t done those things. This Supreme Court has made clear that we shouldn’t look to them for help. We intend to succeed without them.


  1. “look at the cause”
    Proximate cause is too little income. The “economy” is a collection of numbers and sections. The “people” consist of some 40% who don’t have access to $400, and some 74% who live paycheck to paycheck. The federal minimum wage is $7.25. But who could even survive on that? Meanwhile $trillions are sucked up by the 1%. “Trickle down” was always a fraud. And the proponents have known it all along. it is time to reverse this BS.
    There is a growing interest in UBI, universal basic income. There are some 100 examples being tried in jurisdictions in the US. The data is positive. People’s lives improve immediately. Of course! This is income redistribution. The founders of the US graduated income tax system saw redistribution as a key tenant. Trump’s 2017 tax cuts were the exact opposite. Republican politicians have reduced the IRS budget and fought against Biden’s attempt to raise their budget. It happens that collecting unpaid taxes produces much more revenue the it costs. Many of our wealthiest and our big corporations pay little in taxes.
    Inequity is a huge problem for the US, of which homelessness is a glaring symbol.

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