Where Do We Go from Grants Pass?

A small tent set up under an urban pedestrian bridge on a sunny winter day.

TAC is outraged and disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision in Grants Pass v. Johnson. Based on our 30 years of experience working across the country to end homelessness, we know this decision will lead to more individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness being arrested and incarcerated. We also know that disproportionate numbers of these people will have mental illness, substance use disorders, or other disabilities; will be Veterans; will have experienced domestic violence; will be minors; and/or will be Black, Brown, or Indigenous. The court has sent the damaging message that government responsibility to address the affordable housing crisis facing this country can be managed by criminalizing people who cannot afford a place to live. Citing and arresting people who live on the street with local public nuisance laws only compounds peoples’ challenges, perpetuates homelessness, causes further traumatization, and results in increased costs to society.

Homelessness is a public health emergency that requires an urgent, all-of-government approach. We know what works: Many communities are working hard to prevent and end homelessness, despite the shortage of affordable housing, and will continue to build on evidence-based solutions such as Housing First, which has bipartisan support and is credited with having cut Veteran homelessness in half since 2010. Federal, state, and local policymakers must intensify their efforts to expand and accelerate affordable housing resources and programs, including rental assistance, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, and other programs. Access to treatment, services, and other supports (including eviction prevention) can help people both access and sustain the housing options that will keep them off the street. The Grants Pass decision fails to recognize underlying causes of homelessness ― including, first and foremost, the basic, fundamental need for housing.

Policies that criminalize people who experience homelessness are wrong, counterproductive, and ineffectual ― and public officials who resort to policy solutions based on Grants Pass must be held accountable. But in order to prevent states and communities from defaulting to criminalization, Congress and states must do the right thing and provide funding and tools for the development of real solutions: more affordable housing and services to help all people live and thrive in safe, stable housing in the communities they choose.

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Kevin Martone, M.S.W., L.S.W.,

is TAC's Executive Director and is nationally recognized for his expertise in behavioral health policy, system financing and design, Olmstead and community integration, homelessness, and best practice models of housing for persons with disabilities.

Lisa Sloane, M.P.A.,

has nearly 40 years of experience working with federal, state, and local governments as well as nonprofit agencies, to address the supportive housing needs of people with disabilities and of individuals and families experiencing homelessness.