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Johnson v. Grants Pass ruling elevates need for DESC’s long-term solutions–Housing First and PSH

(June 28, 2024)

From DESC Executive Director Daniel Malone

The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has just ruled to uphold laws targeting homelessness with criminal penalties

City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson asked if criminalizing people experiencing homelessness is cruel and unusual punishment. 

(Graphic from Johnson v. Grants Pass, the National Homelessness Law Center (NHLC)

As we said back in April when SCOTUS heard the case, jailing someone for having no place to go is cruel and counterproductive. The perspectives we shared then drew on our long experience and evidence to show that people will accept something better for themselves if it meets their needs. We appreciate statements from jurisdictions such as Seattle indicating they do not plan to pursue incarceration of people in these circumstances. 

At DESC, we know that homelessness is the result of decades of policy and budget decisions, and solving it requires our community to collectively come together to build better solutions. That is why we have been working for decades to create alternatives. For example:   

  • This year, we’ve opened our first Permanent Supportive Housing site outside Seattle in Burien, Wash., providing homes for 95 people. 
  • Our Navigation Center removes barriers that keep people from accepting offers of help and meets our clients where they are with appropriate and effective support. 
  • Next year, we’ll open the ORCA Center, which will provide post-overdose care, medication for opioid use disorder as appropriate and resources for people to start or continue their recovery.  
  • We’re also building 320 new units of Permanent Supportive Housing to end homelessness for our most vulnerable community members.  

Housing First practices and affordable Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) built at scale to meet the needs of everyone who is unhoused are the solution.  

There are better solutions than criminalizing homelessness. Thank you for being an important part of our community helping to solve our toughest challenges, and for standing with us as we advocate for our most vulnerable community members. 

We look forward to keeping you up to date in the days, weeks, and months to come.