A step in the right direction for the Right to Rest!
All of us who are working nationwide as part of the growing movement to pass Right to Rest acts in our states got a big boost from the Obama administration last week!
In an ongoing civil rights case against Boise, Idaho, on August 6th attorneys for the Federal Government’s Civil Rights Division argued that anti-camping bans are unconstitutional when they criminally prosecute people for sleeping outside in public when they have nowhere else to go. (Huntington Post Story– one of many media stories on this). Boise was sued by houseless plaintiffs for prosecuting them for violating the city’s anti-camping ban, even though there were not enough shelter spaces to accommodate all who needed them. According to the attorneys, such laws violate the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, since people are being punished for “conduct that is a universal and unavoidable consequence of being human.”
We realize that the argument needs to go farther, since it seems to imply that IF shelter spaces are available, then governments still have the right to prosecute houseless people for sleeping outside in public rather than using them. We know that shelters will not work for people who have pets, have partners, do badly in confined spaces–and for so many other reasons. We do not believe anyone should be forced to use shelters in lieu of sleeping outside as long as they are not violating the rights or well-being of others. But we welcome this action by the Obama Administration and pledge to encourage them to continue on this path toward ending the criminalization of homelessness in our country.