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California cities, counties frustrated by homeless camps, complain to US Supreme Court

By Carol Cassis

The Epoch Times

Some local officials filed a legal brief to the U.S. Supreme Court last week seeking guidance on dealing with homeless encampments, which they say have become out of control.

The California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities told justices in the brief, filed Sept. 19, that federal court rulings over the last five years have made addressing health and safety concerns surrounding homeless encampments “unworkable.”

Some cities have enacted ordinances over the years to deal with homeless encampments, which are now not enforceable, or have been rolled back all together, due to court rulings.

“The State of California and its cities and counties are engaged in unprecedented efforts to address homelessness through the creation of significant new policy initiatives and funding investments,” the league and association wrote in their brief. “However, camping ordinances can be a useful tool in appropriate circumstances in addressing the complex conditions that exist in our homeless populations.”

Such issues stem from a 2018 decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an Idaho case that bound the western portion of the nation, which is that particular court’s jurisdiction. The case, Martin v. City of Boise, states cities are not allowed to clear homeless encampments or enforce anti-camping ordinances if they don’t have enough shelter beds available for their homeless population.

As cities have tried to clear homeless encampments from their locales – and have been met with lawsuits – lower courts have affirmed Boise throughout California cities including those in Los Angeles and Orange County. In the years since the Boise ruling, homelessness in California has jumped to over 170,000 this year, a 16 percent increase since 2020, according to a study by the University of Southern California.

Cal Matters, a nonprofit news organization based in Sacramento, reported earlier this month that the core of the issue is whether a city can legally clear encampments after homeless individuals refuse an available shelter bed.

Last week, additional California officials weighed in, including the state’s sheriff’s and police chiefs associations, as well as a group of Orange County cities, who filed their own brief arguing the Idaho ruling “may have expanded the rights of those suffering from homelessness [while] the rights of business owners, taxpayers, children and other housed citizens to clean, safe, drug-free streets and public areas have been completely ignored.”

Sacramento County District Attorney Thien Ho also filed his own brief earlier this month on the issue. San Diego County, which recently began enforcing its own camping ban will also submit its own brief alongside the City of Seattle.

Mr. Ho additionally sued the City of Sacramento Sept. 19, accusing it of inadequately enforcing a number of recent camping bans – such as those near schools – and of ignoring residents’ requests to manage associated safety issues.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom additionally criticized federal judges earlier this month for their rulings.

“I hope this goes to the Supreme Court,” Mr. Newsom told Politico in an interview Sept. 22. “And that’s a hell of a statement coming from a progressive Democrat.”

Reprinted with permission from The Epoch Times. Copyright 2023.


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