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Texas Cities Can Keep Fining Homeless People, Amid Rising Crisis 

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that cities can enforce their own bans on homeless people sleeping outside in public places, meaning that Texas cities like Austin can keep their homeless bans in place.

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that outdoor sleeping bans don’t violate the Eighth Amendment and that cities can set their own policies on homelessness. 

“Homelessness is complex. Its causes are many. So may be the public policy responses required to address it,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the decision. “A handful of federal judges cannot begin to ‘match’ the collective wisdom the American people possess in deciding ‘how best to handle’ a pressing social question like homelessness.”

With the new ruling, Austin and other Texas cities can continue to impose criminal penalties for sleeping or camping outdoors in public places. Under the ban, sleeping or camping in public places is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Since the ban, police have issued more than 900 citations to homeless people for sleeping outside.

In 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a statewide camping ban that also penalizes cities that don’t enforce the ban

Homeless advocates have said that allowing cities to punish people who can’t sleep elsewhere would worsen the situation.

“Sleep is a biological necessity, not a crime,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in her dissent. “Homelessness is a reality for so many Americans.”

According to the Associated Press, she also said that punishing people from something they can’t control is cruel. 

The case originated in Grant Pass, Oregon, where officials fined people for sleeping on the streets. An appeals court overturned the law, but now the Supreme Court has allowed the city to enact its own ban.

This decision comes as homelessness in the U.S. is at an all-time high, with more than 650,000 people without a place to sleep. Just last year, homelessness in the country increased by 12%.

In Texas, homelessness also increased last year amid higher rent prices. According to The Texas Tribune, approximately 27,377 Texans were homeless last year. About 11,700 of them were living outside, in their cars, or in other places unfit for human habitation.

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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