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Supreme Court to decide whether cities can ban homeless from public areas

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a case involving whether cities in Western states can ban homeless people from sleeping in public areas. 

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled against anti-camping ordinances in Grants Pass, Oregon, saying it’s unconstitutional because it violates the Eighth Amendment of no 'cruel and unusual punishment.'

Grants Pass appealed the ruling, with the backing of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose own state faces a homelessness crisis. 

The ruling applies to nine western states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

A separate 9th circuit panel ruled in the Grants Pass case that officials shouldn’t pass laws banning homeless people 'from using a blanket, pillow, or cardboard box for protection from the elements.' 

Former MLB great and 10-time All-Star Steve Garvey, a California Republican running for U.S. Senate, told Fox News Digital Friday that combating homelessness must be 'grounded in compassion and practical solutions.' 

'Having recently visited homeless shelters in San Diego and Skid Row in Los Angeles, I've seen the harsh realities faced by those living on the streets,' Garvey explained. 'This experience reinforces my belief that while we need to uphold public safety and community standards, our approach to homelessness must be grounded in compassion and practical solutions.'

He said his tour of homeless areas 'started as a personal awakening and has now become a personal commitment to doing everything I can to address this humanitarian crisis.'

Garvey told Fox News Digital that the Supreme Court should 'take into account the need for humane treatment of the homeless, alongside the enforcement of public ordinances.'

'It's imperative that we find a balance that respects the dignity of all individuals while addressing the broader social and health-related issues contributing to homelessness,' he added. 

Newsom issued a statement on Friday that said, 'California has invested billions to address homelessness, but rulings from the bench have tied the hands of state and local governments to address this issue.'

His office said he had filed an amicus brief in September that urged the Supreme Court 'to clarify that state and local governments can take reasonable actions to address the homelessness crisis creating health and safety dangers for individuals living in encampments and our communities.'

Newsom added, 'The Supreme Court can now correct course and end the costly delays from lawsuits that have plagued our efforts to clear encampments and deliver services to those in need.'

In 2018, a 9th circuit ruling over a Boise, Idaho, case also found that penalizing the homeless for sleeping on the street when there’s no shelter available violates the 8th amendment. 

Theane Evangelis, a lawyer for Grants Pass, said, 'The tragedy is that these decisions are actually harming the very people they purport to protect. We look forward to presenting our arguments to the Supreme Court this spring.'

Grants pass argued that allowing homeless people to stay in encampments can lead to increased crime, fires, 'the reemergence of medieval diseases' and harm to the environment, according to The Hill. 

But Ed Johnson, a lawyer representing the homeless people who challenged the ordinances in Grants Pass, said, 'The issue before the Court is whether cities can punish homeless residents simply for existing without access to shelter. Nevertheless, some politicians and others are cynically and falsely blaming the judiciary for the homelessness crisis to distract the public and deflect blame for years of failed policies.'

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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