Avalon Housing statement on Grants Pass vs. Johnson ruling


Avalon Housing is disappointed and dismayed by today’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Grants Pass vs. Johnson. The court ruled that cities can enforce bans on people sleeping outside when there is no shelter available. This decision essentially criminalizes the experience of being homeless, moving the country much further away from an effective and compassionate approach to addressing homelessness.

Over our 32 years of providing homes and services to people experiencing homelessness, Avalon has seen first-hand the harm that involvement in the criminal justice system can inflict on people trying to build better lives for themselves. For a person working to lay the foundation for a more stable life, even a short encounter with the police or justice system can be a difficult setback to overcome. So as a practical matter, the Court’s decision today makes peoples’ transitions away from homelessness even more difficult in places that choose to criminalize their lack of housing.

Local units of government who take advantage of this new opportunity to criminalize homelessness will be doing a great disservice to their most vulnerable community members.

The obvious question that the Court failed to answer is, if sleeping on the street can be effectively outlawed, where are people experiencing homelessness supposed to go, especially when shelters are often at capacity?

Avalon Housing’s answer is to provide housing first, without preconditions, along with services to help our residents and clients address mental health issues, food insecurity, substance use, health care, and many other issues they may face. We know this is the most effective path at addressing homelessness. Over the past three decades, this approach has helped hundreds of individuals and families exit homelessness here in Washtenaw County.

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