The U.S. Supreme Court refused on Monday to hear a case from Boise, Idaho challenging a lower court ruling that permits homeless people to sleep on sidewalks and in public parks if there is not enough shelter space to house them.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case – which came without comment or a dissent – is a major win for homeless activists, but a blow to city officials across the west who argue that the ruling by a federal appeals court last year hinders their abilities to regulate homeless encampments on city sidewalks.
“The Ninth Circuit’s decision misapplies and radically expands this Court’s precedent, creates conflicts with five other circuit or state supreme courts, and stretches the Eighth Amendment beyond recognition,” the lawyers representing Boise wrote in their petition to the Supreme Court. “In doing so, it eliminates the ability of state and local governments to protect the health and safety of their residents.”
The homelessness problem has become a particular problem in California, where cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco are dealing with massive tent encampments on city streets and freeway underpasses along with public health and safety concerns related to the homeless crisis.
Los Angeles alone saw a 16 percent increase in its homeless population over last year – soaring to more than 36,000 people living on the streets and landing a blow to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other city officials working to add more affordable housing and social services. Overall in the bigger Los Angeles County, the homeless population rose 12 percent compared with last year’s count, bringing the total population to almost 59,000.
Last year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Boise ruled that prosecuting or fining homeless people for sleeping on public property when they have no access to a shelter was in violation of the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. While cities like Los Angeles have begrudgingly adhered to the ruling, other cities have been accused of sweeping homeless individuals out of their jurisdiction and into more tolerant cities – leading officials in cities like Los Angeles to threaten legal action against their neighbors.
“They’re slacking, and some are not even doing that much,” Branimir Kvartuc, a spokesperson for L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino, told Fox News. “Some are taking the homeless out of their cities and moving them to the L.A. city side.”
Los Angeles City Attorney Michael Feuer supported the petition by Boise and questioned if the city needed to have shelter for all 36,000 homeless individuals “before taking enforcement action against a single unsheltered individual who refuses an available shelter bed in one of the city’s regional shelters, just because shelters at the opposite end of the city are full,” according to the Los Angeles Times.