LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl released the following statement regarding the LA County Supervisors’ passage (3-2) today of a motion to file an amicus brief in support of a legal challenge to Martin v. Boise.
“I opposed the motion today to join an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court asking the decision made in Martin v. Boise to be overturned. That decision says that, under the cruel and unusual clause of the 8th Amendment, it is constitutionally prohibited to enforce laws that make it illegal to sleep in public places if homeless individuals have no access to shelter.
I feel very strongly about this and am deeply disappointed in the action of the Board today. This is a civil rights, practical and human issue: Where do we expect people to go if we have no housing to offer them but criminalize homelessness by simply removing them from the streets? Our homeless and housing crisis has been decades in the making, and today my colleagues, frustrated with our progress and alarmed by the scale of the problem, took an action that would simply give law enforcement expanded ability to cite or arrest homeless people with no other place to go.
Today’s action in no way will help the homeless population in LA County. The Martin v. Boise ruling is limited. It does not prohibit jurisdictions from creating laws that limit sleeping in particular places, such as ordinances that make it illegal to camp in high-fire areas. It only applies to law enforcement’s ability to cite or arrest someone for sleeping outside, not to facilitate the work of health or mental health outreach professionals. When police officers and sheriff’s deputies cite people experiencing homelessness for sleeping in public, it does not get that person one inch closer to services or housing, it simply adds to the barriers he or she faces to re-establishing a stable home. I continue to oppose any effort to overturn Martin v. Boise or criminalize homelessness. If this case goes to the Supreme Court and is overturned, any jurisdiction, not just Los Angeles, could totally bar people from the streets. Our goal must be to provide housing to those who need it, not to criminalize poor people who have nowhere else to go in the name of addressing the crisis. “