CCH’s Response to the Supreme Court’s Decision to Criminalize Street Homelessness

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) is deeply disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court limited the rights of people experiencing homelessness in a decision in the Johnson v. Grants Pass case.

Originating from Grants Pass, Oregon, the Supreme Court decision allows cities to penalize people for sleeping outdoors if they have even a blanket to stay warm, even when they have nowhere else to go. Lower court decisions in the case found that fining and arresting people in those circumstances was “cruel and unusual punishment” under the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Court’s decision does not recognize the reality of the lived experience of people who have no place else to go. As noted in the first sentence of Justice Sotomayor’s dissent, “Sleep is a biological necessity, not a crime.”

There is a severe shortage of affordable housing in Chicago, Illinois, and throughout the country and a lack of emergency shelter to address the need. Anti-bedding ordinances, like those at issue in the case, would be particularly harmful to people experiencing homelessness in climates like Chicago and Illinois. Any such measures passed here would punish Black Chicagoans and Illinoisans, who disproportionately experience homelessness.

“Fining and penalizing people experiencing homelessness does not solve homelessness. Indeed, criminalizing homelessness only serves to exacerbate it,” said Patricia Nix-Hodes, Director of the Law Project of CCH. “The solution to homelessness is to provide permanent affordable housing.”

CCH, alongside 27 partner organizations, filed an amicus brief in the case, raising the importance of the case and the impact on people experiencing homelessness in Chicago and Illinois. Pro bono partner Much Shelist supported CCH in filing the brief, and attorneys Steven Blonder, Josh Leavitt, and Charlotte Franklin were instrumental in drafting the brief. Legal Council for Health Justice and Law Center for Better Housing also partnered on the brief.

Read the amicus brief here.

CCH joined the National Homelessness Law Center and hundreds of other organizations that submitted more than 40 amicus briefs in support of people experiencing homelessness.

Amicus brief partners: AIDS Foundation Chicago, All Chicago Making Homelessness History, BEDS Plus, Inc., Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Chicago Rehab Network, Chicago Urban League, Chicago Women Take Action, Covenant House Illinois, Deborah’s Place, Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project, Healthcare Alternative Systems, Inc, Heartland Alliance Health, Housing Action Illinois, Illinois Public Health Institute, Impact for Equity, James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, Law Center for Better Housing, Legal Council for Health Justice, LYTE Collective, North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic, Organized Communities Against Deportations, Red Line Service Institute, Safer Foundation, South Suburban PADS, Street Samaritans, The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence, The Night Ministry, and Thresholds.