On April 22, the Supreme Court will be hearing Grants Pass v. Johnson, a case about whether unhoused people with no option for indoor shelter can even pull a blanket around themselves without being subject to criminal punishment. 

This is exactly what the city of Grants Pass, Oregon did when it outlawed sleeping or resting anywhere on public property, even when no shelter beds are available. Although couched as a “camping” restriction, the ordinance makes it impossible for its unhoused residents to live in Grants Pass. A Ninth Circuit ruling struck down the ordinance, determining that it was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The city is now appealing that decision. 

The city’s refusal to care for its unhoused residents sets the stage for the most significant Supreme Court case about homelessness in decades. If the Court rules in the city’s favor, it will enable local and state governments to follow in Grant Pass’ footsteps, risking a dramatic rise in the criminalization of homelessness and poverty across the country. In response, Kairos recently filed an amicus brief – alongside a dozen faith institutions – offering a moral defense of unhoused people in the Grants Pass v. Johnson case.

This Monday, we will be joining hundreds of organizations outside the Supreme Court for the “Housing Not Handcuffs” rally. Our demand is simple: rather than criminalize unhoused people for their poverty, our nation must marshall its abundance to provide housing for everyone who needs it. Homelessness is not personal failure, but a systemic symptom of a deeper social failure. 

Fight Poverty, Not the Poor!

Read our amicus brief here

Read our policy brief on Housing Justice here