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Commentary By Stephen Eide

Gavin Newsom No Longer Has an Excuse for Tent Cities

Cities, Governance, Health Homelessness

In City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, the Supreme Court reverses a Ninth Circuit decision that barred laws against public camping.

As tent cities filled with homeless people proliferated in West Coast communities in recent years, elected Democrats dealt with the problem by passing the buck. California Gov. Gavin Newsom argued that his hands—and those of other state and local officials—were tied by a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that prohibitions on homeless encampments amounted to “cruel and unusual punishment.” In City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, the Supreme Court has taken that excuse away.

In 2018, the judges of the Ninth Circuit essentially OK’d the idea of pitching a tent on a sidewalk or in a park. The ordinances at issue in that case levied fines for public camping. Repeated noncompliance could lead to being banned from local parks and jailed for short periods. The ordinances applied, Justice Neil Gorsuch made clear in his Grants Pass majority opinion, with equal force to homeless people, backpackers and student protesters. They wouldn’t strike most Americans as cruel.

Continue reading the entire piece here at The Wall Street Journal


Stephen Eide is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images