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The Supreme Court Takes on Homelessness. What Could Go Wrong? The Supreme Court Takes on Homelessness. What Could Go Wrong? | Washington Monthly

Today, the justices hear arguments on a Grants Pass, Oregon, municipal ordinance that slaps heavy fines and, if unpaid, criminal penalties on the homeless.

The Supreme Court Takes on Homelessness. What Could Go Wrong? | Washington Monthly

Even after living in Oregon, off and on, for 30 years, I still tend to drive through a few towns there without looking right or left. One of these is Grants Pass, which has, as the Oregon Encyclopedia delicately puts it,

a troubled social history, with outbreaks of religious intolerance and white supremacist activity. The Ku Klux Klan was active throughout Oregon in the 1920s, with an estimated Grants Pass membership in the hundreds. The Klan had a short-lived resurgence in Grants Pass in the 1980s and 1990s, and the area was targeted for an Aryan Nations’ organizing drive, canceled after an anti-racism protest in the city drew 1,500 marchers in 1995. Militia activity spilled over into Grants Pass as well, most recently involving demonstrations by the Oath Keepers group.

Whatever its image may be, the city in 2024 bids fair to become the nationwide face of non-hospitality. Today, it will come before the Supreme Court to defend an “anti-camping” law designed (in the words of one of its sponsors) “to make it uncomfortable enough for [homeless people] in our city so they will want to move on down the road.”

If discomfort was their aim, the “anti-camping” ordinances’ authors achieved it. It is currently unlawful in Grants Pass to be anywhere in public with “bedding, sleeping bag, or other material used for bedding.” “Campers” don’t need to erect tents or shelters; merely holding a blanket violates the law. There can be no sleeping in public parks or other public property, and cars cannot be parked for more than two hours in public parks after midnight. No one can sleep in “any pedestrian or vehicular entrance to public or private property abutting a public sidewalk.” Anyone found “camping” or sleeping can be “immediately removed” from the premises and subject to a fine of $75 (for merely sleeping) or $295 (for “camping”). These fines are bolstered by hefty “collection fees” if not paid promptly. Though the fines are “civil,” a homeless person with two unpaid fines may be subject to an “exclusion order”—and may be fined and jailed for violating that order.

Homeless people in Grants Pass might try to find somewhere to shelter legally on a chilly night, but that quest is problematic. The city doesn’t maintain public shelters; it has a “sobering center” where intoxicated people can sober up, a temporary shelter for homeless youths, and a “warming center” that operates only on nights that fall below freezing (and doesn’t feature beds). Meanwhile, a church-supported “Gospel Rescue Mission” allows homeless individuals to stay—if they agree to work six days a week at shelter-assigned jobs, not to seek other employment while staying there, and not to smoke, drink, or engage in “intimate relationships.” Women may stay at the Mission with their children; men may not bring their children with them. Residents must also attend Christian services twice each weekday and once on Sunday.

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  • It's wild to me how these "God fearing Christians" basically want to put poor people into concentration camps, because that's just like Jesus would do. /s

    Maybe if we had more public housing, better healthcare, that includes mental and dental, and easier and cheaper access to higher education and more affordable housing while being educated, it's not rocket science, sure we'll have people who choose the nomadic life but most of these homeless people have been pushed out of society by debt or by their health issues and the addictions that come from those health issues and poverty.

    • It's wild to me how these "God fearing Christians" basically want to put poor people into concentration camps, because that's just like Jesus would do. /s

      Well, you see, bad things like poverty only happen to amoral people who aren't God fearing so if they're poor then they're bad people and they deserve mistreatment.

      That's the mental calculus happening here, it's also the idea behind the fervent worship of wealth. Clearly wealthy people are exceptional in some way, they wouldn't be wealthy if God disapproved of them.

      These ideas are extremely common in rural America.

    • "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you." 5%3A1-6&version=NIV

    • Republicans are in favor of programs that will get results, not programs that create government dependency. You say "we need more access to this and that..." and that's where the problems is. You want the tax payers to front millions for other people, and hope it works, while screwing us that have actually worked hard to have a normal life.

      • First I like how you are trying to shade people about not being able to work hard, I've known homeless folks who work their asses off but can't get ahead, can't get approved for a place to live. Also they can't get hired because of their mental illness, which Reagan helped put millions of those folks out on the streets, raising crime rates, so how's that for results? Then you have the millions of hard working addicts living life on pain killers because our healthcare is f'n joke, how's that for results when the rest of the world has universal healthcare? Education system is completely unaffordable so you have people going homeless over their broken college dreams and/or their crushing student debt, yet hey the answer to education is voucher programs and only rich kids get to go to college, how's that for results?

        Secondly how about we tax the rich? That's where I expect the money to come from, we used to have a 50% tax on the wealthy, and it helped create our education system, library system, highway system, yet again Republicans constantly want to lower taxes on literal billionaires, eventually trillionaires, because when the fuck do you have enough money? Bernie Sanders said billionaires shouldn't exist, they should be able to get to $999,999,999.99 and get a plaque that says they win capitalism, ans I whole heartedly agree with that statement. Oh and it gets even worse for your beloved Republicans where Trump's tax plan that he put in place during his administration financed giving the wealthy their tax cuts, by increasing taxes on the lower and middle classes for the next four years, we are currently in year four, how about that for results bud?

        I've worked hard since I was twelve years old, ran a whole kitchen including dish duty at thirteen, I served this country as Marine, and I am currently upper middle class, yet I don't begrudge these people help, because I'm not a selfish fuckhead, but also the way I see it is we can provide healthcare, food, housing to our military, we should be able to do the same for those that we are supposed to be protecting, and do protect, especially during natural disasters.

        You my friend and all of your selfish libertarian/Republican dipshits can go fuck yourselves, and doubly so if you're a MAGA cultist.