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America 250: Town Hall Series

Are Bans on Homeless Encampments Unconstitutional?

May 15, 2024, 6:30 PM, Brooks Memorial Library

Moderated by Dr. Meg Mott

This Town Hall considers the best arguments for and against the rights of unhoused persons to sleep in public places. Should all cities be restricted from enforcing no-camping ordinances in public parks? Do homeless encampments injure residents who depend on access to green spaces? Does the 8th Amendment even pertain to this situation? 


Background: In 2018, a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court ruled that “the Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of criminal penalties for sitting, sleeping or lying outside on public property for homeless individuals who cannot obtain shelter.” With that ruling, Western states could only remove homeless people from public lands when there were beds in public shelters. A class action suit from a group of homeless individuals in Grants Pass, Oregon brought suit against the city for violating their constitutional rights. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, Johnson v. City of Grant’s Pass, this term.


Participants will have a chance to explore this complex issue with their neighbors and in the company of the Constitution as part of our ongoing America 250 exploration.


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