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IPFS News Link • Homeless

The Ninth Circuit: Enemy Of Cities Trying To Shut Down Homeless Camps

•, by Charlotte Allen

The vast majority of them - 30 percent of America's homeless - live in California alone, even though California accounts for only 12 percent of the general population of the United States.

The reason isn't simply the temperate climate of the West's coastal cities that makes living on sidewalks amid trash, crime, rodents, and disease more tolerable—or the free meals and other benefits that the progressive governments of those cities typically offer. One major factor is that the nine states are under the thumb of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, most of whose judges are still famously liberal despite a short-lived influx of Donald Trump appointees.

The Ninth Circuit, alone among federal appeals courts, has made it nearly impossible for states and cities in the West to enforce their longstanding public nuisance laws that ban camping, sleeping, and lodging on public sidewalks and in public parks and buildings. The Ninth Circuit deems such enforcement "cruel and unusual punishment" that violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That, in turn, makes it impossible for cities to clear their streets of the tent encampments that are not only unsightly and dangerous but are also public health hazards for the street people themselves.

Take the city of San Francisco, with one of the highest homelessness rates in the nation. More than 4,000 homeless people, many of them alcoholics, drug addicts, or mentally ill, live mostly outdoors in the city's downtown and Tenderloin districts that have become so-called "doom loops" because businesses and residents are fleeing the filth and crime. San Francisco has been fighting a legal battle in federal court since 2022 over its efforts to get rid of homeless encampments in its central city. All to no avail. On Jan. 11, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit issued a 2–1 ruling upholding a federal district judge's preliminary injunction that bars the enforcement of state and city anti-camping laws in San Francisco pending a full trial that has yet to take place.