Laws Targeting the Homeless Under Scrutiny

Laws targeting the homeless—prohibiting them from panhandling, camping outside and sleeping in their vehicles—have been on the rise, prompting lawsuits that are now winding their way through the courts.

News Story (Idaho, NATIONAL)

Suzy Khimm
March 20, 2015
Link to story

Tags: Housing: Homelessness

Organizations mentioned/involved: Idaho Legal Aid Services


One prominent case has emerged in Idaho, where a federal court is expected to rule this summer on a Boise anti-camping law that makes it illegal for residents to sleep in public places. The law is being challenged by a group of homeless individuals and legal advocates who argue that the ordinance is a violation of the Eighth Amendment, unconstitutionally subjecting residents to “cruel and unusual punishment” simply for fulfilling a basic human need.

Such laws essentially criminalize homelessness, according to Howard Belodoff of Idaho Legal Aid, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

“This criminalization doesn’t resolve problems—it just creates more problems,” said Belodoff. “There are programs, there are cities and counties that have programs that really address the issue. Boise does not—it’s window dressing.”