SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A decision on Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court is having a major impact on homeless laws across the country, including in Sacramento.
The Justices refused to hear an appeal of a case known as Martin vs. Boise, which says people without homes have a right to camp in public.
Sacramento city leaders reacted to the Supreme Court’s decision to let stand a lower court ruling, allowing homeless camping in public. Sacramento was one of the several cities that had appealed to the high court.
“We basically felt that we were vulnerable to being sued if we moved any homeless person,” Sacramento City Councilmember Jeff Harris said.
A survey earlier this year shows there are nearly 4,000 people without shelter each night. So what does this mean for Sacramento’s current anti-camping ordinance? “Unless there is shelter space available, for them, it’s cruel and unusual punishment a violation of the eighth amendment of the United States Constitution to criminalize those people,” Mark Merin said.
Sacramento attorney Mark Merin says it’s a victory for homeless rights.
“It was a surprise, a very good surprise,” Merin said. “They took away the ability to use police to just shuffle them along, say ‘You get out of here right now or you’re going to be arrested.'”
But there’s still a concern about the growing number of problems caused by homeless people including digging holes into levees that protect Sacramento from flooding.
“We are figuring it out within the language of Martin v. Boise what we can do lawfully and sometimes we might take actions that are on the edge because there is a real solid public safety concern,” Harris said.
Meanwhile, the city is continuing its efforts to get people off the streets.
“We are spending millions of dollars in trying to build shelters as quickly as we can so that we do have a place to offer up to the homeless population so that they can be out of the elements,” Harris said.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg says he believes this ruling puts the focus back on the government’s legal obligation to ensure everyone has a roof over their heads.