Representative Bush Leads Bicameral Amicus Brief Opposing the Criminalization of Homelessness

Representative Cori Bush (D-MO) led a bicameral amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court to oppose the criminalization of people experiencing homelessness. Joined by 18 colleagues, Representative Bush filed the brief on April 3 in anticipation of City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson.

The amicus brief supports the argument that the enforcement of public camping laws against involuntarily unhoused people violates the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. It also details our nation’s history of housing disinvestment, which began to worsen in the 1980s and continues to worsen today, as housing costs reach record highs. The brief cites research from NLIHC’s The Gap and Out of Reach reports. Finally, the brief describes the disproportionate negative impact the ruling may have on unhoused people who are Black and brown, young, people with disabilities, seniors, or members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“Punishing poverty traps people in cycles of debt, unemployment, and hopelessness, increasing the likelihood someone will become chronically homeless, which makes the problem worse for everyone and therefore serves no legitimate penological purpose,” write the lawmakers. “While the members of Congress signing here agree that the political branches have at least partially failed homeless Americans by turning away from their historical role in ensuring broad access to affordable housing, this Court has never permitted a local government to inflict pain on its own innocent residents for the deliberate purpose of running them off and making them someone else’s burden. For the good of the people our Constitution protects, and for the health of the interstate relationships it governs, we undersigned lawmakers implore this Court to affirm the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.”

The brief is signed by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D–MA) and Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Shri Thanedar (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), André Carson (D-IN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Summer Lee (D-PA), Delia Ramirez (D-IL), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), and Ro Khanna (D-CA).

NLIHC, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Coalition for the Homeless, National Homelessness Law Center, National Housing Law Project, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Southern Poverty Law Center, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Funders Together to End Homelessness, True Colors United, and National Coalition for Homeless Veterans endorsed the brief.

Read the amicus brief at:

Read Rep. Bush’s press release at:

Learn more about the Supreme Court case at:

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