Opinion: Homeless Don’t Have the ‘Right’ to Trash Our Communities

Are you tired of navigating around homeless encampments and unconscious addicts? Are you tired of side-stepping to avoid human waste and needles? 

You aren’t alone. Most hardworking Americans want clean sidewalks and communities to work and live in. 

However, cities are barred legally from cleaning up homeless’ cities.’ Advocates have won rulings after going to Court, guaranteeing people experiencing homelessness have almost complete freedom to live wherever they want and live rough — rule-abiding citizens be damned.

But here’s the good news. January 12, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would rule on a case that challenges the new norm of disease, squalor, garbage, and shouting people with schizophrenia that have invaded our neighborhoods.

Grants Pass, Oregon, located about 250 miles south of Oregon’s state capital of Portland, is challenging a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that reaches back to 2018 that shields the homeless from punishment for camping on public property. The 9th Circuit is known for left-wing jurisprudence and says penalties for sleeping on property that is designated ‘public’ is “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The ruling has tied the hands of city politicians in San Francisco, Portland, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and other Western cities. It’s also been cited by courts in the rest of the country as a reason to tolerate homeless encampments. What the justices rule this spring will impact the whole U.S.

Homeless advocates say cities are unwilling to spend money to care for the indigent. Across the nation, municipalities have increased shelter accommodations; however, many homeless people refuse to leave the streets.

They choose to “rough” it instead of abiding by the conditions and rules of public shelters. A survey in Portland showed between May 2022 and July 2023, 75% turned down offers for accommodations in shelters. In 2023, in San Francisco, 54% of the homeless turned down offers, according to data from the city.

While the homeless deserve compassion, allowing them to stay on the street, where they succumb to disease or freeze to death on the sidewalk, isn’t compassionate. On average, they are reducing their lifespan by three decades or more.

Across the nation, the proportion of homeless choosing living on the streets over public shelters is slowly growing. The litigants in the Grants Pass tell the Court, “Time is of the essence.”

“The consequences of inaction are dire…crime, fires, the re-emergence of medieval diseases, environmental harm, and record levels of drug overdoses and deaths on public streets.” 

Even Democrat California Governor Gavin Newsom is warning justices that homeless encampments pose “immediate threats to health and safety” and “are dangerous.” 

Gov. Newsom may have reasons to change his tune politically, but his brief to the Court talks of “significant risks for disease transmission” and “property damage, theft, and break-ins” in the vicinity of encampments.

The SCOTUS will issue a ruling by June. The justices can be expected to overturn the 9th Circuit’s illogical decision and free communities to restore safety and order to their streets. However, the Court can’t command them to do it. 

Ultimately, it depends on local officials acting for the law-abiding majority.

Eric Adams, New York City Mayor, recently boasted he’s not allowing New York to sink into the despair of places like Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Holding up a photo of Los Angeles and pointing out the filth, Adams proclaimed, “There are no toilets!” and questioned, “Is this what you want your children to see?”

To his credit, Adams has acted aggressively to involuntarily commit the mentally ill to remove them from the streets. But don’t count on other officials in New York City to act sanely.

A Homeless Bill of Rights — written by the far-left New York City Council — became law in June. It explicitly acknowledges the right to sleep outdoors. It pits Mayor Adams against the bill’s sponsor, Jumaane Williams, a New York City Public Advocate who has an eye on Adams’s job and would succeed temporarily if Adams were to step down for any reason.

Williams says the call to shut down encampments is “stoking fear.” Take note, voters.

Voters are everywhere, and New Yorkers need to elect leaders who will end the growing squalor.