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Supreme Court backs TN law banning homeless people from sleeping on streets

From Fox 17 Nashville: In the High Cost of Homelessness, the Supreme Court is backing a Tennessee law banning camping on public property.  

From Fox 17 Nashville: In the High Cost of Homelessness, the Supreme Court is backing a Tennessee law banning camping on public property.

 

While some feel this criminalizes homelessness and could make the issues even worse, others feel this Supreme Court’s decision could act as a deterrent for those living on the streets.

 

In a 6-3 decision by the high court, cities can now enforce bans on people sleeping and camping in public places. This overturned a California appeals court ruling that found such laws too harsh.

 

The ruling now brings in mixed emotions.

 

Jesse Rabinowitz with the National Homelessness Law Center says fining folks or putting them in jail will make it harder for them to find a place to live.

 

“The decision today by the Homeless Law Center was shameful,” Rabinowitz says. “Punishing people for doing what they need to survive is fundamentally unjust and will never solve homelessness.”

 

“The Supreme Court decision was huge,” Brittany McCann, a community advocate, says. “That was one of the big reasons why we couldn’t get our camp closed in Hermitage. We couldn’t get people into housing. We had to let it continue to grow. We had to let people continue to die from overdoses.”

 

McCann considers this high court ruling a win.

 

Homeless camp in Hermitage. (Photo: FOX 17 News)

Homeless camp in Hermitage. (Photo: FOX 17 News)

“We’ve tried the experiment of living on public land, with no plumbing, no toilets, no hygiene, and it wasn’t,” she adds.

 

While Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill in 2022 making it a Class E felony to camp on state-owned property, on Friday, FOX 17 News asked the mayor’s office what they plan to enforce citywide following the Supreme Court decision.

 

They sent us a statement that says their goal is to ensure housing and services are available.

 

April Calvin with the Office of Homeless Services says they’ll use this ruling to fight for more housing solutions.

 

“What I know about our community is we are resilient, we are service providers that are passionate and feisty, and what I know about our mayor and local government is they are solutions-based,” Calvin says.

FOX 17 News also asked the district attorney’s office if they’ll enforce this. The office says General Funk does not prosecute homelessness, but every case is different and will be reviewed thoroughly.