Exit Site

Statement on US Supreme Court Ruling on Homeless Encampments

Last week, the Unites States Supreme Court ruled that imposing a ban on homeless encampments does not violate the Eight Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. MNCASA strongly condemns the Supreme Court’s ruling, which directly harms victims/survivors of violence and targets oppressed communities.

This ruling targets oppressed communities.

This ruling empowers the State to further target and criminalize marginalized communities, who are already overincarcerated. Systemic oppression and homelessness are undeniably linked. LGBTQIA+, disabled, and BIPOC communities experience higher rates of sexual, domestic, and state-sanctioned violence. They are also more likely to experience housing and employment discrimination and are more likely to be unsheltered.

The heaviest burden of the Supreme Court’s ruling falls on people of color, LGBTQIA+ folks, and disabled people. Minnesota’s Homeless Data Information System found that in 2019, one in 67 Minnesotans of color experienced homelessness, compared with one in 641 white Minnesotans. 67 percent of households waiting for placements in shelters or housing programs included a disabled person.

Homelessness cannot be separated from the conditions that lead to and perpetuate it—conditions the State has the power to prevent but which it regularly reinforces.

This ruling ignores that sexual violence can lead to becoming unsheltered and mirrors the punitive behavior of an abuser.

Victims/survivors of sexual violence should not have to fear that the state may punish them for leaving an unsafe situation. Experiencing sexual or domestic violence can lead to becoming unsheltered. Victims/survivors are often forced to leave their homes due to violence. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of shelter beds in Minnesota and across the US to receive those fleeing violence. Many victims/survivors simply have nowhere else to go and a homeless encampment is the safest and best available option.

Abusers often threaten to harm or punish victims/survivors when they try to leave. By criminalizing victims/survivors who are homeless, the state mirrors the punitive behavior of an abuser.

This ruling places people at greater risk for sex trafficking and sexual violence.

Being unsheltered is a significant risk factor for experiencing sexual violence. According to the Minnesota Homeless Study “nearly 6 in 10 homeless adults [in Minnesota] have experienced physical or sexual violence. Women and people who identify as LGBTQ experience this violence at higher rates.”

This ruling restricts a victim/survivor’s already limited options and increases their vulnerability to abusers and traffickers. Victims/survivors may also be forced to trade sex for shelter to avoid being arrested.

Safe housing is a basic human right.

With this ruling, the United States Supreme Court indicates it would rather expose victims/survivors to more violence than allow a homeless person to simply sleep—or exist—in a public place. State governments should not prosecute and punish homeless people. Instead, they should work to ensure safety and shelter for all.

MNCASA believes that all people have a right to live free of violence, including safe and stable housing. Rather than criminalizing victims/survivors and replicating the violence they have already experienced, we should be searching for transformative solutions to housing injustice.