Today the Supreme Court declined to accept an appeal of a case issued by the 9th Circuit. That leaves a ruling in place which found it was unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment for states to issue fines against homeless people for sleeping on the streets except in cases where the municipality in question has enough beds to offer one to every homeless person.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed nearly a decade ago. A handful of people sued the city of Boise for repeatedly ticketing them for violating an ordinance against sleeping outside. While Boise officials later amended it to prohibit citations when shelters are full, the 9th Circuit eventually determined the local law was unconstitutional.
In a decision last year, the court said it was “cruel and unusual punishment” to enforce rules that stop homeless people from camping in public places when they have no place else to go. That means states across the 9th Circuit can no longer enforce similar statutes if they don’t have enough shelter beds for homeless people sleeping outside.
The Boise decision has put limits on what cities and counties can do in response to homeless people camping on sidewalks or in other public places. Because of the large upswing in homelessness along the west coast, from San Diego to Seattle, no municipality has enough shelter beds to accommodate everyone who needs a bed. In effect, police cannot arrest or ticket the homeless for sleeping outside.