Less than a decade ago, it was ruled as “cruel and unusual” by federal judges to fine and arrest unhoused individuals for sleeping outside due to not having anywhere else to go. Currently, this has been attempted to be swiped, even a request to overturn Martin v. Boise by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The housing crisis has not gotten any better, including with how the working class people were impacted by the pandemic that is still ongoing and the uprising inflation that makes even groceries feel risky to purchase regularly.
In West Coast cities, affordable housing is a common topic that reveals the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to build for low-income and unhoused communities. However, it's not an investment that political officials would rather avoid pursuing. Not a surprise to say the least.
It is cheaper to use fines and threaten regular people who are deeply struggling to be arrested in order to “resolve” the appearance of civilians sleeping on the street. Though, this strategy gets cities into many lawsuits, ones that are validated by Martin v. Boise.
The crisis is one that officials claim that cannot be “fixed” with just giving more housing, but legal experts make the point that the court's decision in Martin v. Boise only gives certain limitations to cities. There is always this argument that it doesn't address the foundation of the crisis, but rather protect those impacted by it. I think that is something even more important within the financial systems we survive under, but with those protections possibly going away, there are so many uncertainties that can further dig in more disasters for those that aren't even unhoused right now.
According to The Seattle Times in describing what is thelegal issue of Martin v. Boise, “Six homeless people, including Robert Martin, sued the city of Boise in 2009 after receiving fines from police for sleeping on public property. They argued that the three homeless shelters in Boise, the only ones in the county. weren't suitable for them because they either were full almost every night or required longer-term residents to enroll in Christian programming, according to court filings.”
In 2018, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the with those whom lived in the encampments.
“As long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter,” the court wrote.
Criminal penalties for sitting, sleeping, or lying outside, which the court said are “unavoidable consequences of being human,” violated the Eighth Amendment's protection against “cruel and unusual” punishment, according to The Seattle Times.
The court further stated with clarification that religious-based treatment in housing programs cannot be considered to be shelter because it conflicts with the First Amendment's right to religious freedom.
To see this infiltrated in order to not assist those struggling with housing stability, more money would need to be invested of other resources that could alleviate financial distress for potentially millions of people. Leaving people out in the dust, literally, would not help anyone and can create collective chaos in a way that would change the status quo of capitalism.