CSH, Urban Institute Researchers, and 36 Partner Organizations File a SCOTUS Amicus Brief on Ninth Circuit Homelessness Ruling

April 8, 2024 – New York, NY – Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), in collaboration with housing policy researchers at the Urban Institute and 36 partner organizations, announces filing an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to stop proponents from backing punitive approaches that exacerbate rather than alleviate the challenges faced by people experiencing poverty and homelessness. The brief supports the Ninth Circuit's decision to uphold the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting communities from fining or arresting people for merely sleeping outside when they have no access to shelter.

At the core of the Ninth Circuit case, Johnson v. Grants Pass, is the attempt from officials in Grants Pass, Oregon to penalize individuals for using a blanket or pillow on public property for comfort due to no other shelter options.

The case reflects a disturbing rise in hastily passed legislation taking place in states and cities across the country that makes merely existing in public while experiencing homelessness a crime. These policies are often enacted based on the false belief that homelessness is a choice or a result of personal failures.

These efforts distract us from the systemic causes of homelessness, which data show are chronic shortages of homes people can afford, persistent poverty, and an overreliance on institutionalizing people rather than providing coordinated, community-based health and support services. 

CSH and our colleagues at Urban Institute argue that punishing people for experiencing homelessness is ineffective, costly, and harmful. Criminalizing homelessness perpetuates cycles of poverty and institutionalization and diverts law enforcement resources away from preventing crime, protecting the rights of all individuals, and responders to emergencies.

Punitive measures fail to deter homelessness, exacerbate poverty and grow incarceration rates. They disproportionately harm vulnerable individuals, hindering efforts to connect them with essential services. In contrast, there is definitive proof that more cost-effective alternatives like investments in affordable housing, support services, and opportunities for economic security, work better for individuals and communities long term.

As an advocate for proven interventions like supportive housing, CSH stands for preserving human dignity and freedom and implores the SCOTUS to uphold the Constitution.

CSH gratefully acknowledges these partners for signing on this amicus brief:

Samantha Batko, Urban Institute*
Sarah Gillespie, Urban Institute*
Ability Housing, Inc.
Amethyst Place  
CaringWorks, Inc.
Carrfour Supportive Housing, Inc.
Center for Housing and Health     
Coalition on Homelessness & Housing in Ohio   
Collaborative Solutions, Inc.
Community Housing Network   
Englewood Community Development Corporation   
Episcopal Housing Corporation
Florida Supportive Housing Coalition    
Georgia Supportive Housing Coalition    
Gorman & Company      
HELP of Southern Nevada     
Hoosier Uplands Economic Development Corporation    
Horizon House   
Illinois Housing Council    
Lantern Community Services
Low Income Housing Institute
Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance    
Minnesota Housing Partnership     
Nevada Housing Coalition    
New Hope Housing, Inc.
Partners for HOME     
Partnership for Strong Communities      
Quest Communities     
Save Inc.       
Serving Seniors
Supportive Housing Advocates - New Jersey     
Supportive Housing Network New York     
Texas Homeless Network

Sarah Gillespie is Associate Vice President for Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy at the Urban Institute, and Samantha Batko is Senior Fellow in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute. The views expressed here are those of the individuals and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its Board of Trustees, or its funders.

About CSH

CSH (Corporation for Supportive Housing) advances affordable and accessible housing aligned with services by advocating for effective policies and funding, equitably investing in communities, and strengthening the supportive housing field. Since our founding in 1991, CSH has been the only national nonprofit intermediary focused solely on increasing the availability of supportive housing. Over the course of our work, we have created more than 467,600 units of affordable and supportive housing and distributed over $1.5 billion in loans and grants. Our workforce is central to accomplishing this work. We employ approximately 170 people across 30 states and U.S. Territories. As an intermediary, we do not directly develop or operate housing but center our approach on collaboration with a wide range of people, partners, and sectors. For more information, visit www.csh.org.   

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