Over the past year and a half, a court case called Martin v. Boise has been significantly impacted cities’ abilities to respond to street homelessness. In a nutshell, the 9th Circuit Court ruling essentially says that imposition of criminal penalties for sitting, sleeping, or lying outside on public property for homeless individuals who cannot obtain shelter is unconstitutional.
In the fall of 2019, a group of cities, including the City of San Rafael, appealed the case to the US Supreme Court. This appeal was in part an effort to gain more clarification. There are a number of grey areas in the original ruling. What does “sufficient” shelter require? How does this ruling apply to encampments, which are more long-term places of habitation? Our director of homeless planning & outreach, Andrew Hening recently wrote a blog post clarifying this ruling and breaking down what it means here in San Rafael.