By Addie Glick, BSU Students and Intern for Word on the Street and Jodi Peterson Stigers
Six individuals filed a lawsuit against the City of Boise for receiving citations under Boise City Code 9-10-02 (the “Camping Ordinance”) and 6-01-05 (the “Disorderly Conduct Ordinance”) when they were experiencing homelessness. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled the city’s camping ordinance violated the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause of the 8th amendment (Martin v. City of Boise). At the time, the camping ordinance made it a misdemeanor to sleep in public places even when there was no access to alternative shelter.
The City of Boise changed the policy to uphold only when there was room in overnight shelters. Although a step in the right direction, this change defines the problem only in terms of available shelter space rather than further investigation into the needs of those directly affected. Even if there is an available shelter space, some individuals experiencing homelessness manage serious trauma, mental health, and addiction issues, which can cause them to have difficulty in the shelter setting.
Currently The City of Boise is able to write citations for those sleeping outside when there is room in the shelter. With this tool already in place and no encampments building up in any parts of our city, it seems like this amount of enforcement is enough to keep our kind city of Boise safe from “becoming a Seattle or Portland”.
The City of Boise filed a petition for a writ of certiorari hoping the Supreme Court will overturn the case. Specifically, they want the language removed “when there is room in the shelter”. If the case is accepted and overturned by the Supreme Court, it is likely that individuals experiencing homelessness could receive citations for sleeping outside even where there is no available shelter space.
Where are they supposed to go?
Word on the Street gives voice to a community that has decisions made around them, about them and against them, with little time spent by the decision makers talking to them. Stories from individuals experiencing homelessness can facilitate deeper learning about social justice issues by putting a face to them. Policy affects people.