This morningthe Supreme Court ruled against the rights of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Grants Pass v. Johnson. This decision undoes an earlier ruling that prevented cities from enforcing penalties for unsheltered homelessness in areas where the number of people experiencing homelessness is greater than the shelter beds available. We are deeply concerned about the impact this ruling will have on our region.

At the state level, Oregon passed House Bill 3115 in 2021. This law is meant to protect the most vulnerable citizens from unreasonable standards for living outside while allowing cities to regulate encampments. In May, the City of Portland justified passing a camping ordinance, that allows for $100 tickets and seven days of jail time for individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness. The City announced this week that it would begin enforcing the local law on July 1, 2024Adding criminal records and fines for people sheltering outside increases the barriers case managers must overcome to connect people experiencing homelessness to an already restrictive housing market.

The National Low Income’s Out of Reach Report released this week, shows that a person making minimum wage in our region needs to work 86 hours a week to afford a studio apartment. Where does this leave our neighbors who are parents, disabled, or have aged out of the workforce? Rent affordable to a senior living on social security in our region is $283 a month, an amount inaccessible without subsidized housing.

With an upcoming local election and a new form of City Government, we must continue to push our local jurisdictions to pursue a housing-focused approach to addressing public encampments. As we’ve shared, recent success in Houston can be a road map for our region. In Houston, housing is at the center of their approach to addressing public encampments. Since 2021, Houston has decommissioned more than 90 encampments, home to 600 individuals, with around 90% of them going into housing.

There are real solutions to reducing public encampment while honoring the choice of people experiencing homelessness. As members of this community, we must hold our governments accountable for passing successful solutions to our affordable housing shortage.