Justice Department targets local laws against sleeping in public

posted at 4:41 pm on August 7, 2015 by Jazz Shaw

Boise, Idaho is one of many, many cities and towns across the nation which have passed laws banning sleeping in parks and other public places. This practice results in the occasional prosecution of the homeless, which is either a bug or a feature depending who you ask. Civil rights activists want to see an end to this practice and now the Obama administration has weighed in on their side. (Huffington Post)

Laws that make it a crime for homeless people to sleep in public places even when there isn’t enough room for them at a shelter unconstitutionally punish the homeless, lawyers for the Obama administration said in a court filing on Thursday.

The federal government took this position against so-called anti-camping laws in an ongoing case against the city of Boise, Idaho, which has enforced ordinances banning sleeping in public spaces and ended up convicting homeless plaintiffs.

Attorneys in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division argued that “the conduct of sleeping in a public place is indistinguishable from the status of homelessness” and that it should be “uncontroversial that punishing conduct that is a universal and unavoidable consequence of being human” violates the Eighth Amendment. They noted that “finding a safe and legal place to sleep can be difficult or even impossible” for many homeless people.

Public nuisance laws have been around nearly as long as the nation and I’m fairly sure that they were inherited from other nations before us. Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re “the right thing to do” by default, but we also can’t simply wave them away with a magic wand. Of course in this case a legitimate concern is being raised. Communities have the right to set their own standards for cleanliness and conduct, just as they can determine factors like vertical density and historic or cultural look and feel. If you don’t want your public square occupied by people sleeping under newspapers because it will affect tourism, the quality of life for residents or commerce, that’s generally left to the judgement of government at the local level.

But homelessness is definitely a problem in most communities and you want to offer whatever help may be possible. How do you balance those competing needs? If there is a homeless shelter available, the question is rather simple to answer. Law enforcement can take public sleepers and determine if they are truly homeless. (If it’s just some drunk who passed out on the way home we’re in completely different territory.) Assuming they are, they can be directed toward or given a lift to the shelter. If they refuse such help and also will not move along, then detaining them may be the only option.

What if the community has no such shelter available? Designated “homeless sleeping areas” is a solution which sounds as if it’s rife with problems. But yet again we see a situation where the answer will be vastly different from one place to the next and top down solutions from the federal level are never the answer.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Obama has a big heart. He wants to make it easier for peasants to beg for scraps of bread outside.

ConstantineXI on August 7, 2015 at 4:45 PM

This is very important because Obama doesn’t want the millions of illegals and Muslims he’s imported to be bothered when they sleep in public place.

darwin on August 7, 2015 at 4:48 PM

Wow, even the Obama Justice Department does something right once in a while.

avgjo on August 7, 2015 at 4:48 PM

We vacationed in the great NW a couple of years ago and when we got to Seattle we noticed every bench in town was a bed for a bum. I mean every single one.

DanMan on August 7, 2015 at 4:49 PM

Wow, even the Obama Justice Department does something right once in a while.

avgjo

When?

xblade on August 7, 2015 at 4:49 PM

But homelessness is definitely a problem in most communities and you want to offer whatever help may be possible.

Most are either addicts/alcoholics or mentally ill. Not exactly the type of people you want adorning public spaces.

I suggest shipping them to NYC where touchy feely tolerant fascists can use their own money and homes to help them. Communist party leader de Blasio would approve I’m sure.

darwin on August 7, 2015 at 4:52 PM

They used to be called bums and vagrants, now they are a protected class. The “fundamental transformation” continues to pick up pace and we ‘aint seen nothin’ yet.

jnelchef on August 7, 2015 at 4:54 PM

Wow, even the Obama Justice Department does something right once in a while.

avgjo on August 7, 2015 at 4:48 PM

You obviously dont live in a urban area.

How is turning parks into camping grounds “Doing something right?”

BlaxPac on August 7, 2015 at 4:55 PM

I guess they should target these laws. After all, the way things are going in obamanation, park benches will be all that there is for anyone to sleep on off the ground.

The chinese and mexicans will be sleeping in our beds, and I guess if we want jobs we’ll be cleaning their toilets and planting their marigolds……

….or killing them……just sayin….

Andy__B on August 7, 2015 at 4:59 PM

Local governments creating more criminals? How can a conservative support this?

weedisgood on August 7, 2015 at 4:59 PM

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Huh, doesn’t say anything about the homeless…

trubble on August 7, 2015 at 5:01 PM

They’re taking the naps that most Americans aren’t willing to take.

RBMN on August 7, 2015 at 5:02 PM

HA needs a public nuisance law.

RickB on August 7, 2015 at 5:04 PM

The federal government took this position against so-called anti-camping laws in an ongoing case against the city of Boise, Idaho, which has enforced ordinances banning sleeping in public spaces and ended up convicting homeless plaintiffs.

How about being evicted from private places for failing to pay property taxes? When will the feds stand up against property taxes on homes?

airupthere on August 7, 2015 at 5:05 PM

You woke me up for this?

/

hillbillyjim on August 7, 2015 at 5:05 PM

HA needs a public nuisance law.

RickB on August 7, 2015 at 5:04 PM

Hey, this bottle is just iced tea…really.

RBMN on August 7, 2015 at 5:06 PM

Local governments creating more criminals? How can a conservative support this?

Cheech Wizard on August 7, 2015 at 4:59 PM

The Democrats who run the city O’bama claims to have been born in, Honolulu, have been creating more criminals this very same way for years.

From last week:

Advocates for the homeless rallied in front of Honolulu Hale on Tuesday to urge government officials to do more to get people into housing, scrap homeless camp sweeps and halt expansion of the city’s “sit-lie” ban.

As drivers honked in support, 30 or so people lined King Street waving signs that read “Homelessness Is Not a Crime,” “Where’s Aloha for the Homeless?” and “Repeal Sit-Lie Now.”

-snip-

Groups representing social service agencies, churches and others came together under the Housing Now Coalition and hand-delivered letters to Gov. David Ige, Mayor Kirk Caldwell, legislators and City Council members Tuesday, urging them to make affordable housing their top priority.

The coalition’s letter asks for a halt on expanding the city’s “sit-lie” ban that helped clean up places such as Waikiki but also fueled the expansion of the Kakaako homeless encampment and a much smaller one on Harding Avenue across from the Market City Shopping Center that was cleaned out Monday.

The coalition’s letter asks for a halt of homeless sweeps until their effects can be studied.

“Since their implementation, the number of houseless has increased, not decreased, and a recent study from the University of Hawaii Department of Urban and Regional planning begs the question if these city sweeps of the poor do more harm than good,” according to the letter. “Why waste precious time and money with policies that only increase the hardship of unsheltered people while failing to solve the underlying problem?”

So, Cultist, when is O’bama going to have his Department of Justice clean up the homeless clusterfark his fellow Democrats have created in “Paradise”?

F-

Del Dolemonte on August 7, 2015 at 5:09 PM

We vacationed in the great NW a couple of years ago and when we got to Seattle we noticed every bench in town was a bed for a bum. I mean every single one.

DanMan on August 7, 2015 at 4:49 PM

You would think that at least some of the benches smelled of urine enough that even the homeless would find another one.

pedestrian on August 7, 2015 at 5:09 PM

There is no right to be a public parasite and exist at others expense.

rplat on August 7, 2015 at 5:11 PM

Let them sleep inside the White House and justice department.

Then Loretta can tell cities how to act.

Skywise on August 7, 2015 at 5:12 PM

You would think that at least some of the benches smelled of urine enough that even the homeless would find another one.

pedestrian on August 7, 2015 at 5:09 PM

Urine is the air freshener that covers up even worse smells.

RBMN on August 7, 2015 at 5:12 PM

Local governments creating more criminals? How can a conservative support this?

Cheech Wizard on August 7, 2015 at 4:59 PM

PS, the mayor of Boise, Idaho is a…Democrat.

F- #2.

Del Dolemonte on August 7, 2015 at 5:16 PM

Maybe its a safety issue.

Man Nearly Killed by Falling Light Pole, Base Corroded Away by Urine

Dolce Far Niente on August 7, 2015 at 5:20 PM

Justice Department targets local laws against sleeping in public

So I’ll be able to camp out on the White House lawn now?

Nomennovum on August 7, 2015 at 5:22 PM

Maybe its a safety issue.

Man Nearly Killed by Falling Light Pole, Base Corroded Away by Urine

Dolce Far Niente on August 7, 2015 at 5:20 PM

I hate when that happens.

RBMN on August 7, 2015 at 5:22 PM

Public nuisance laws have been around nearly as long as the nation and I’m fairly sure that they were inherited from other nations before us. Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re “the right thing to do” by default

Actually, it pretty much does.

Nomennovum on August 7, 2015 at 5:24 PM

The Democrats really are undermining the very character of our country.

claudius on August 7, 2015 at 5:24 PM

Most are either addicts/alcoholics or mentally ill. Not exactly the type of people you want adorning public spaces.

I suggest shipping them to NYC where touchy feely tolerant fascists can use their own money and homes to help them. Communist party leader de Blasio would approve I’m sure.

darwin on August 7, 2015 at 4:52 PM

Most are just batshit crazy, and most of them have been sent to NYC already, or so it sometimes seems. Further, they are more than a nuisance. They are dangerous. They kill and maim with disturbing regularity. It is a crime — in addition to cruel to the insane — to release them from the mental hospitals, but the cultural Marxists insist on making normal Americans suffer. It is no surprise that Obama, who hates normal Americans as much as he hates to do real work, would want to aggravate the problem.

I’m sure the Republican controlled Congress will put a stop to this, though.

Nomennovum on August 7, 2015 at 5:32 PM

Move them all to “sanctuary” cities.

Megyn Kellys Lipstick on August 7, 2015 at 5:48 PM

Simple fix. Offer them a bus ticket to Washington or some lefty mecca with enough of whatever their poison is to get them there. Probably cheaper that running them through the court.

wifarmboy on August 7, 2015 at 5:49 PM

Let the vagrants take over the public parks and pretty soon they’ll be using police cars as their own personal Porta-Potties.

pain train on August 7, 2015 at 5:51 PM

I’m sure the Republican controlled Congress will put a stop to this, though.

Nomennovum on August 7, 2015 at 5:32 PM

It’s not the hill to die on – Turtle McBoner

RickB on August 7, 2015 at 5:53 PM

Anton Jackson – This Old Box

lol!

pain train on August 7, 2015 at 5:55 PM

You can’t sleep on Federal property unless authorized so how does LL square that circle.

RickB on August 7, 2015 at 5:56 PM

So I’ll be able to camp out on the White House lawn now?

Nomennovum on August 7, 2015 at 5:22 PM

Hey, we want to take the youngest to see the sites in our nation’s capital. Putting up a tent in the Rose Garden is so much more affordable than shelling out for a room at a hotel.

CJ on August 7, 2015 at 6:14 PM

Perhaps King Barack will make room for them at the White House.

Left unsaid: What do you do when you first get up in the morning?

Yeah, that’s right….and just WHERE do you think they do it?

GarandFan on August 7, 2015 at 6:19 PM

conduct that is a universal and unavoidable consequence of being human

Ummm, really? How is homelessness a “universal and unavoidable consequence of being human” when so many people (something like 99% of the population) are NOT?!?

Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re “the right thing to do” by default, but we also can’t simply wave them away with a magic wand.

Chesterton’s fence.

If you’re arresting these folks, don’t you basically pick them up and give them a place to sleep by putting them in a jail cell? But, somehow, that’s a bad thing………………… *smh* These “progressives” ain’t too bright.

GWB on August 7, 2015 at 6:22 PM

Huh, doesn’t say anything about the homeless…

trubble on August 7, 2015 at 5:01 PM

The cops should identify the people advocating locally against these laws. Then, when they come across a vagrant asleep in the park, they pick him up and take him to their house.

3am, some progressive’s front door
*knock knock*
Prog: (knuckling her eyes, groggily) What? Officer? Can I help you?
Officer 1: We picked a vagr… err, an unfortunate up in the park, and knowing your opposition to our practice of arresting them, we brought him here.
Prog: Why?
Officer 2: So he can sleep in your house. Why else?
Prog: What?!? Why would I want him in my house?
Officer 1: Sign here, ma’am.
Prog: What? Sign what? Why?
Officer 1: It’s a waiver. It’s standard.
Prog: (signing the waiver because the gov’t told her to) What? A waiver for what? Why?
Officer 2: Well, ma’am, since we’re leaving him with you, at your insistence…
Prog: My insistence? I’m not insisting on anything except that you get out of here!
Officer 2: … the waiver excludes us and the department and the city from any sorts of liability should he act up while in your home.
Prog: Look! You and that… that… that person, get out of my house right this minute!
Officer 1: (pushing the vagrant forward through her door) Sorry, ma’am, but you don’t want us putting them up in the city gray bar, and they can’t sleep on the benches in the park – it’s not safe. “If it saves even one life”, right, ma’am?
Officer 2: (tearing the signed waiver off, leaving the carbon for the files at the precinct) Here you go, ma’am. Have a good night, and thank you for helping your community.
(Officers, pulling door shut, whistle tunelessly as they walk back to their squad car, drowning out the sounds of screaming coming from the prog as the vagrant poor unfortunate urinates on her priceless Persian rug.)

GWB on August 7, 2015 at 6:49 PM

This is very important because Obama doesn’t want the millions of illegals and Muslims he’s imported to be bothered when they sleep in public place.

darwin on August 7, 2015 at 4:48 PM

I think it’s the right thing to do.

If we stay on our current path, Obama’s illegals and muslims will all have jobs or at least good enough benefits to not be homeless.

It’s us, the average Joe white citizen who will be jobless and homeless. But at least we’ll be able to sleep in the park.

Oxymoron on August 7, 2015 at 6:55 PM

GWB,
Your plan has my full support!

Megyn Kellys Lipstick on August 7, 2015 at 6:56 PM

BlaxPac on August 7, 2015 at 4:55 PM

They gotta sleep somewhere. 18 trillion in debt, and we don’t have places for these people to sleep. Churches are too busy with social justice to pick up the slack. Most of my fellow conservatives sure as hades don’t want to foot the bill. No one seriously opposes the economic causes of this. The problem will only get worse, not better. It certainly won’t go away because cities pass ordinances designed to push these people out of sight. Besides, treating people like feral animals is wrong.

I certainly hope you’re never in the position of having to find a place to sleep.

avgjo on August 7, 2015 at 7:34 PM

xblade on August 7, 2015 at 4:49 PM

I guess this passes for, howdoyousay, snark?

avgjo on August 7, 2015 at 7:35 PM

All black ‘homeless’ should be set up in the Lincum Bedroom. All white homeless must, by newly ordered Executive Order, be housed at Auschwitz, NY.

vnvet on August 7, 2015 at 7:42 PM

Move ’em all – or give them a choice to move – to Detroit (..I’ve heard they have plenty of vacant housing available…)

tanked59 on August 7, 2015 at 7:50 PM

avgjo on August 7, 2015 at 7:34 PM

Spoken like a true bleeding-heart.

I guess this passes for, howdoyousay, snark?

avgjo on August 7, 2015 at 7:35 PM

Or a question. The subject of this post certainly isn’t one of the things they’ve done right. (There’s this little thing called “constitutionality” – this action certainly doesn’t pass muster by that standard.)

Detroit (..I’ve heard they have plenty of vacant housing available…)

tanked59 on August 7, 2015 at 7:50 PM

Another great idea!

GWB on August 7, 2015 at 8:14 PM

This is all about paving the way for the next Occupy protest to camp out in public parks and public spaces. Local governments will be powerless in removing the protesters.

Mark was here on August 7, 2015 at 8:21 PM

In Obama’s Amerika…park benches will be considered a luxury.

trs on August 7, 2015 at 9:45 PM

Please stop calling them homeless!

At least 25% have homes but choose to hang out in Skid Rows (per the LAPD studies) because they want the drugs and booze.

The rest are mentally ill or simply criminals.

No, we can’t simply wave them away with a magic wand but we also cannot get rid of them by enabling them to live on the streets all expenses paid. That’s AA’s position, which seems to work.

PattyJ on August 7, 2015 at 10:29 PM

Wait… 8th Amendment?

Is Obama really arguing that a fine or a day in jail is a cruel and unusual punishment?

And hey, if it’s wrong to fine some one for an “inevitable part of the human condition” then why isn’t it wrong to fine people for the inevitable part of the human condition of being alive by forcing them to purchase health insurance?

Sackett on August 7, 2015 at 10:45 PM

They used to be called bums and vagrants, now they are a protected class. The “fundamental transformation” continues to pick up pace and we ‘aint seen nothin’ yet.

jnelchef on August 7, 2015 at 4:54 PM

Let’s not be too hasty here. I for one will like to be able to crash on a park bench when I lose my home, job and vehicle due to the Obama Cloward-Piven Wreckovery without being hassled by the Man.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 8, 2015 at 8:41 AM

OK, pop-over ads are annoying enough, but when it also uses an auto-start video, that’s truly annoying! Stop it, HA!

GWB on August 8, 2015 at 9:34 AM

At least 25% have homes but choose to hang out in Skid Rows (per the LAPD studies) because they want the drugs and booze.

The rest are mentally ill or simply criminals.

PattyJ on August 7, 2015 at 10:29 PM

One of the biggest spikes in the ‘homeless’ population was when there was an overreaction thanks to a Geraldo Riveria ‘expose’ on a couple nuthouses that were underfunded and understaffed and the genius response was mass closures of said nuthouses…

A former manager of one of them said it was about like dealing with abuse of a few prisoners by closing prisons.

LawfulGood on August 8, 2015 at 9:47 AM

I guess we need Trump or Christie because all of Obama’s home stretch decisions are of the metastasizing variety and I can’t see anybody else caring enough to undo anything.

The Nerve on August 8, 2015 at 1:18 PM

conduct that is a universal and unavoidable consequence of being human

Ummm, really? How is homelessness a “universal and unavoidable consequence of being human” when so many people (something like 99% of the population) are NOT?!?
GWB on August 7, 2015 at 6:22 PM

I believe the consequence of being human means to sleep not to be homeless.
I loved your next post though. Hilarious dialog.

free on August 8, 2015 at 4:04 PM