9th Circuit Hints at Relief in Critical Homelessness Case
Judges for the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday appeared poised to answer San Francisco’s pleas for clarity in how it can legally refer people sleeping in homeless encampments into shelter. Judges Lucy Koh, Patrick Bumatay and Roopali Desai repeatedly appeared to side with San Francisco’s interpretation of case law as defining voluntary homelessness as occurring whenever an offer of shelter is made and refused, and that the city could act to enforce no-camping ordinances against individuals who refused shelter offers. Perhaps the most dramatic moment of the hearing came when Joseph Lee, representing the Coalition on Homelessness, conceded both points.
The court also appeared to support the city’s position that the lower court’s preliminary injunction against the appearance of police officers at encampment outreach efforts was an overreach. The 9th Circuit is expected to make a final ruling in the coming months, and in the interim request an amendment to the preliminary injunction with the lower U.S. District Court to allow encampment resolutions to resume. During recent budget hearings, the Bay Area Council urged the Board of Supervisors to shift San Francisco’s focus to scaling shelter, reducing regional inflows, and establishing enforcement thresholds. The Council is closely monitoring the San Francisco case and another related case in Grants Pass stemming from the 2018 9th Circuit case Martin v Boise. To engage in the Council’s homelessness policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Adrian Covert .