It’s unconstitutional to ban the homeless from sleeping outside, the federal government says

Last week, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest arguing that you can't ban the homeless from sleeping outside.
News Story (Idaho)

Emily Badger
Washington Post
August 13, 2015

Tags: Housing: Homelessness

Organizations mentioned/involved: Idaho Legal Aid Services, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP)


Boise, like many cities — the number of which has swelled since the recession — has an ordinance banning sleeping or camping in public places. But such laws, the DOJ says, effectively criminalize homelessness itself in situations where people simply have nowhere else to sleep.


Such laws, the DOJ argues, violate the 8th amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment, making them unconstitutional. By weighing in on this case, the DOJ’s first foray in two decades into this still-unsettled area of law, the federal government is warning cities far beyond Boise and backing up federal goals to treat homelessness more humanely.

“It’s huge,” says Eric Tars, a senior attorney for the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, which originally filed the lawsuit against Boise, alongside Idaho Legal Aid Services.