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PRESS RELEASE: Oregon Food Bank Disappointed by Supreme Court Decision in City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, Urges Federal Action to Address Houselessness

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, June 28, 2024
Contact: Morgan D. Dewey, press@oregonfoodbank.org, 801-712-7969

Oregon Food Bank Disappointed by Supreme Court Decision in City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, Urges Federal Action to Address Houselessness

Portland, OR — In a profoundly disappointing ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld harmful laws across the country that arrest and fine people experiencing houselessness for using survival items like blankets or pillows in public spaces, even when no alternative shelter is available.

"Oregon Food Bank is deeply saddened by the City of Grants Pass v. Johnson ruling, which punishes our neighbors for simply trying to survive," said Loren Naldoza, Public Policy Advocate at Oregon Food Bank. “Criminalization will harm people — especially BIPOC communities and people experiencing poverty — and will make our houselessness crisis more difficult and expensive to solve. Housing insecurity isn’t just a housing issue — it’s a key driver of hunger."

Despite this setback, Oregon Food Bank finds hope in the powerful dissent by Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which aligns with our core belief that no one should be punished for their lack of housing. She shares:

“Sleep is a biological necessity, not a crime. For some people, sleeping outside is their only option. The City of Grants Pass jails and fines those people for sleeping anywhere in public at any time, including in their cars, if they use as little as a blanket to keep warm or a rolled-up shirt as a pillow. For people with no access to shelter, that punishes them for being homeless. That is unconscionable and unconstitutional.”

Oregon Food Bank calls on the Biden administration and Congress to take immediate action by investing at least $356 billion in the next year, with continued funding in future years, to ensure that everyone has safe housing they can afford. We specifically urge full funding for:

  • Universal rental assistance for lowest-income households

  • Public housing repair and preservation

  • National Housing Trust Fund

  • Eviction and houselessness prevention

  • Voluntary supportive and emergency services

"Arresting or fining people for trying to survive is expensive, counterproductive, and cruel," said Jesse Rabinowitz, campaign and communications director at the National Houselessness Law Center (NHLC). "This inhumane ruling, which contradicts the values of nearly three-quarters of Americans, will make homelessness worse in Grants Pass and nationwide. Cities are now even more empowered to neglect proven housing-based solutions and to arrest or fine those with no choice but to sleep outdoors. While we are disappointed, we are not surprised that this Supreme Court ruled against the interests of our poorest neighbors.”

Oregon Food Bank is proud to have joined the National Homelessness Law Center and 15 other Oregon-based organizations in submitting an amicus brief in solidarity with the rights of our unhoused neighbors. In partnership with the many direct service organizations that serve individuals and families experiencing varying degrees of housing insecurity, we will continue to advocate for systemic changes that address the root causes of hunger and houselessness.

“We align with the thousands of advocates nationwide who have mobilized around this landmark case,” added Sammi Teo, Public Policy Advocate at Oregon Food Bank. “While this ruling is a setback, our commitment to ensuring that everyone has a safe place to call home is stronger than ever. Housing, not handcuffs, is the solution to houselessness.”

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About Oregon Food Bank

At Oregon Food Bank, we believe that food and health are basic human rights for all. We know that hunger is not just an individual experience; it is also a community-wide symptom of barriers to employment, education, housing, and healthcare. That’s why we work systematically in our mission to end hunger in Oregon: we build community connections to help people access nutritious, affordable food today, and we build community power to eliminate the root causes of hunger for good. Join us online OregonFoodBank.org and @oregonfoodbank on social media.

About the National Homelessness Law Center

The National Homelessness Law Center (NHLC) is committed to protecting the rights of unhoused people across the United States and advocating for policies that prevent and end homelessness, ensuring that all people have access to safe and adequate housing. Learn more at homelesslaw.org.



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