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Supreme Court Ruling Will Make Homelessness Worse- But We're Not Done Fighting

Updated: Jul 8

Last Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that communities like Grants Pass can cite, fine, and arrest people for sleeping outdoors, even when there’s not enough shelter or housing. 

This ruling is cruel and immoral and will only make things worse for our friends and for outreach and advocacy groups like OTN. We also know that this ruling will also have a disproportionate impact on Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color who already endure housing inequities, discrimination, and incarceration at higher rates. 

Mass homelessness in the U.S. is a policy failure, and in order to effectively end homelessness, we need to invest in housing and services—not policing and punishment. 

We’ve said it for 14 years and we’ll say it again: we need house keys, not handcuffs. This demand is best illustrated by the story of our friend Alabama that we highlighted in the Direct Service Provider amicus brief and that Justice Sotomayor highlighted in her dissent.

“Consider one last example of a Nashville man who experienced homelessness for nearly 20 years,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “When an outreach worker tried to help him secure housing, the worker had difficulty finding him for his appointments because he was frequently arrested for being homeless. He was arrested 198 times and had over 250 charged citations, all for petty offenses. The outreach worker made him a t-shirt that read ‘please do not arrest me, my outreach worker is working on my housing.’ Once the worker was able to secure him stable housing, he ‘had no further encounters with the police, no citations, and no arrests.’ These and countless other stories reflect the reality of criminalizing sleeping outside when people have no other choice.”

Even though political and economic conditions are dire, we remain deeply committed to resisting injustice. Our hope has never been in the Supreme Court. Our hope is in the power of people who come together and the spirit of love and solidarity that moves through us all. The Supreme Court has ruled what communities can do, but this is not a mandate. We don’t have to turn to policies we know to be cruel and ineffective. Now is the time to organize, mobilize, and support one another in order to build the world we want!  

Here are some of the ways we’re taking action at OTN:

  • We’re reminding our friends on the streets that they’re not alone

  • We’re continuing to expand the TN Solidarity Network for Housing & Homelessness and working with others to lay the groundwork for a statewide coalition focused on housing, homelessness, and tenants’ rights. 

  • We’re working on proactive policies at the local and statewide level.

  • We’re partnering with national groups like the National Homelessness Law Center, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and others who are part of the National Coalition for Housing Justice.

Here some of the ways YOU can take action


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