Cities cannot fine homeless people for living outside, U.S. judge rules in Grants Pass case


Summary generated on August 11, 2020

    Grants Pass has joined Boise in eliciting a precedent-setting court ruling that could alter how cities nationwide cite and fine people living outside.

    A federal judge decided last week that the Southern Oregon city of 37,500 violated its homeless residents' Eighth Amendment rights by excluding them from parks without due process and citing them for sleeping outside.

    The ruling builds on 2018′s landmark Martin v. City of Boise case that said cities cannot make it illegal to sleep or rest outside without providing people with sufficient indoor alternatives.

    In Grants Pass, homeless people have been showing up for years to the Oregon Law Center office with complaints that their ability to rest was made impossible by local ordinances.

    Blake owes Grants Pass $5,000 in stacked up fines and fees related to being homeless.

    U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark D. Clarke wrote a stinging rebuke of the way Grants Pass fines people living outside.

    Clarke's opinion will likely have ramifications far beyond Grants Pass.Many cities and counties were shaken by the Boise example, which has been widely interpreted as saying that it is unconstitutional to arrest people for what are called "Sit-lie laws" - resting and sleeping in public - if the jurisdiction does not provide adequate shelter or affordable housing.

    The Boise case was based in part on the Eighth Amendment - that arresting homeless people for simply being homeless is cruel and unusual punishment.

    Grants Pass created its system of fines as part of a strategy to make it difficult to be homeless there.

    About 70% to 80% of homeless people in Grants Pass are from the area, according to court documents.