Federal court rules cities can’t punish homeless for sleeping on the street

A homeless couple gather their belongings in San Francisco, Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Crews in San Francisco on Tuesday began sweeping out a homeless camp under the city’s Central Freeway that was declared a health hazard and for months has been a source of irritation for neighbors and nearby businesses. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

“The only way to solve this problem expeditiously is to violate the U.S. Constitution.” – Chip Franklin, KGO810 Host

California officials will have an additional component to consider when it comes to formulating a strategy to address the exploding homeless crisis following a ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco Tuesday that deemed it unconstitutional for cities to penalize people sleeping on a public street or sidewalk when shelters are not available.  

The court agreed in a 3-0 decision criminalizing conduct that is “an unavoidable consequence of being homeless” violates the ban on cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. The resolution will become a binding precedent for nine Western states unless it is successfully appealed, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, and has reinstated lawsuits challenging ordinances in Boise, Idaho that make it illegal to use any sidewalk or public property as a “camping place.”

KRON 4 reports the ruling could bring forth legal action against the city of San Francisco as well, where it is currently a misdemeanor to sit or lie down on a public sidewalk, or on a mattress or other object on the sidewalk, between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.

Host Chip Franklin agrees with the verdict on paper; however, when he looks around at his surroundings he sees the other side of the coin. He revealed just this week he witnessed three homeless people sleeping in a San Francisco park meant for children complete with a needle on the ground in the area.

“The only way to solve this problem expeditiously is to violate the U.S. Constitution,” he told his co-host Nikki Medoro, later on settling on there being “no answer” at all, saying “We could put a million dollars behind it and help maybe 10 people.”

Medoro looked at the situation through a more positive lens. She is hopeful some out-of-the box thinking will eventually unearth a fix, although she admitted it’s unclear just what that would be with so many moving parts to take into account — particularly mental illness.

In the podcast below, she and Franklin discuss the biggest challenges that they see when it comes to getting to the bottom of the homeless issue and imagine what they would do if they themselves were put into circumstances that led them with no other option than living on the streets.


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