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ICYMI: Leslie Lewallen Pens Op-Ed “It’s Time for SCOTUS to Clean Up the 9th Circuit’s Mess”

“. . .The precedent set in ‘Martin’ must be overturned or the Court must provide clarity on ‘the governing legal standard.”

CAMAS, WA – On Saturday, Clark County Today published an op-ed written by Leslie Lewallen in which she discussed the impact of the 9th Circuit’s rulings in both Martin v. Boise and Grants Pass v. Johnson. These rulings have significantly hindered attempts to regulate homelessness which has led to cities being overwhelmed by the drugs, crime and public health concerns that arise from these populations. The time has come for the Supreme Court to provide clarity on what recourse is left to states when it comes to managing homeless populations.

Lewallen: It’s Time for SCOTUS to Clean Up the 9th Circuit’s Mess

By: Leslie Lewallen

Major cities across the country are being crushed by growing homeless population

. . . The status quo is untenable. For cities to meet their obligations to their citizens, the precedent set in Martin must be overturned or the Court must provide clarity on “the governing legal standard.” Additionally, there must be an honest conversation about how to effectively and compassionately address the multifaceted homelessness crisis.

The seeds of Grants Pass v. Johnson were planted in the Ninth’s 2018 decision in Martin v. City of Boise in which the court ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment prevented cities from criminally prosecuting individuals for sleeping outside when shelter space was unavailable. However, the court also emphasized that it intended its holding to be narrow, writing that their ruling was not to suggest “that a jurisdiction with insufficient shelter can never criminalize the act of sleeping outside.”

. . . For states, cities and municipalities, much of the frustration surrounding these two cases stems from the lack of clarity provided by the Ninth Circuit as to how their rulings were to be applied. In the absence of clarity, lower district courts have stepped in to define the limits for them. Unfortunately, as Grants Pass discovered, district court rulings have broadened what was originally intended to be a narrow decision, leaving cities unsure what actions they can take without risking litigation.

For the sake of the cities being overwhelmed by homeless populations, it is incumbent upon the Supreme Court to determine if every attempt to manage and regulate vagrancy constitutes cruelty under the Eighth Amendment. If so, then it is time for the High Court to give clarity where thus far confusion has reigned by detailing what recourse is left to states who seek to manage the crime, drugs and public health concerns that arise from these populations.

Implicit within the rulings of Martin and Grants Pass is the tacit promotion by these liberal justices of the failed “Housing First” agenda so popular among progressive bureaucrats.

. . . Far too often, “Housing First” becomes “Housing Only” and the root issues that led to a person becoming homeless are left undiagnosed and untreated. Before spending more money or building more shelters, elected officials must define the metrics of success for any policies they wish to implement. The universal goal of any homeless policy should be to exit people from the state of homelessness – not build a homeless industrial complex!

Connecting people with the services they need – whether they want those services or not – must be the metric we use to gauge the success of any new homeless policy. While addressing immediate needs – shelter, food, clothing – is important, the approach taken so far clearly has not worked. It’s time to consider tying access to those immediate needs to the acceptance of treatment for the underlying causes that led the person to the streets.

. . . State and local governments must coordinate and utilize available federal resources to expand the spectrum of services available through shelters and outreach programs; and rethink their methods for encouraging those in need to accept treatment for their underlying root causes.

. . . Today’s housing crisis did not happen in a vacuum. Clarity from courts combined with a holistic approach to helping people leave the streets are two necessary steps to turning this crisis around. Housing alone is not enough, because there is NOTHING compassionate about providing shelter while still allowing someone to suffer.