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San Francisco Can Clear Homeless Encampments Following Court Ruling

'It’s not healthy, safe, or compassionate for people on the street,' said Mayor London Breed

San Francisco Can Clear Homeless Encampments Following Court Ruling

San Francisco will once again enforce laws barring homeless people from living on public property.

An injunction previously issued against the California city has been overturned in the wake of a ruling on public camping bans from the United States Supreme Court.

Although it had previously issued an injunction, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on July 8 that the city could proceed with removal efforts. The court cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in City of Grants Pass v. Johnson.

The Coalition on Homelessness sued San Francisco in 2022 arguing the city was violating the right of homeless people by subjecting them to cruel and unusual punishment. 

On June 28, the nation’s highest court ruled an anti-camping law passed by Grants Pass, Oregon did not violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The court found that fining, ticketing, or arresting homeless people camping on a city’s public property was not a form of cruel and unusual punishment. 

Justice Neil Gorsuch, who authored the opinion for the 6-3 majority, cited data indicating over 70 percent of homeless people are suffering from a mental health condition. He also acknowledged the “variety of reasons” a person may become homeless and that “those living without shelter often live together.”

“As the number of homeless individuals has grown, the number of homeless encampments across the country has increased as well, ‘in numbers not seen in almost a century,’” wrote Gorsuch. “As the number and size of these encampments have grown, so have the challenges they can pose for the homeless and others."

“Homelessness is complex. Its causes are many. So may be the public policy responses required to address it,” summarized the justice. “The Constitution’s Eighth Amendment serves many important functions, but it does not authorize federal judges to wrest those rights and responsibilities from the American people and in their place dictate this Nation’s homelessness policy.”

At least 8,300 people were homeless in San Francisco in 2o24 according to data released by the city government. The total marked a 7.3 percent increase during a two-year period. Just under 4,000 homeless people in the city were staying in a shelter.

San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu praised the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision to strike down the injunction. He said officials will now be able to more efficiently address the homeless crisis, which has cost the city more than a billion.

We could make all the offers of shelter and services that we wanted but there were many moments where unhoused folks would simply reject or refuse services. Reject offers of shelter,” Chiu told ABC 7 News.

The city’s mayor, London Breed, and Governor Gavin Newsom both asked the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s ruling blocking the city from forcing homeless people to leave encampments. 

This decision by the Supreme Court will help cities like San Francisco manage our public spaces more effectively and efficiently,” Breed said in a statement in late June. “San Francisco has made significant investments in shelter and housing, and we will continue to lead with offers of services from our hard-working City employees. But too often these offers are rejected, and we need to be able to enforce our laws, especially to prevent long-term encampments. This decision recognizes that cities must have more flexibility to address challenges on our streets.”

The mayor said the city will continue to offer shelter to homeless people but that it will “not allow those who reject offers of help to remain where they are.”

“It’s not healthy, safe, or compassionate for people on the street and it’s not acceptable for our neighborhoods,” said Breed. 

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