The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released a report providing guidance to help communities develop local action plans that connect unsheltered homeless people with permanent housing. In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice is challenging the constitutionality of local ordinances that criminalize sleeping or camping in public places.
The USICH report, Ending Homelessness for People Living in Encampments, states “To end homelessness for everyone, we must link people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, including people sleeping and living in encampments, with permanent housing opportunities matched with the right level of services to ensure that those housing opportunities are stable and successful.”
The report provides details pertaining to four elements communities should include in their action plans in order to provide lasting housing solutions for people living in encampments. The elements are to: allow adequate time to implement an action plan, collaborate across sectors and systems, perform intensive and persistent outreach and engagement, and provide low-barrier pathways to permanent housing.
According to USICH, “the information and ideas contained within [the guidance] have been developed by USICH based upon conversations and problem-solving discussions with advocates, housing and services providers, and government officials across the country regarding what they have learned, and are still learning, about the most effective approaches and strategies.”
The report follows up on a previous USICH report, Searching out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) addressed a negative action that some communities take regarding unsheltered homeless people, i.e., criminalizing homelessness. On August 6, DOJ filed a statement of interest in federal district court in Idaho, arguing that banning homeless people from sleeping in public places was unconstitutional when there is inadequate shelter space. The statement of interest was filed in response to the case Bell v. City of Boise et al., a case brought by homeless plaintiffs who were convicted under local ordinances that criminalized sleeping or camping in public.
The DOJ brief stated, “[i]t should be uncontroversial that punishing conduct that is a universal and unavoidable consequence of being human violates the Eighth Amendment. Sleeping is a life-sustaining activity – i.e., it must occur at some time in some place. If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being homeless.”
The DOJ statement of interest is at http://www.ju.gov/opa/file/643766/download