US DOJ: Prohibiting the homeless from sleeping outside is unconstitutional


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I don’t like that they make the distinction between when there is adequate shelter space and when there isn’t. Just because there is enough shelter space, doesn’t meant that homeless people should be forced to go to them if they don’t want to.


Continuing the George Carlin goodness. . .


Good on the DoJ for standing up for the homeless. I sort of feel like it may not really protect the homeless as it does not go far enough. Many cities will design public spaces to make it nearly impossible or very uncomfortable for the homeless to have a safe space to rest/sleep. I’d like to see the DoJ prohibiting cities from intentionally doing this to the homeless. If they really want to deal with the situation then offer them a safer space or a better alternative rather than being passive-aggressive over where they can rest.


Next up, public defecation legalized


The concern is that the DOJ and the courts can’t force cities to do one thing or another thing in order to solve a problem. They can only say you cannot do X or you cannot do Y because it is not legal to do so.

Thus, the obvious anti-vagrancy laws of “It is illegal to be homeless in this town” are not valid laws and if a city wishes to address homelessness, it must do something else that does not involve arresting homeless people.

In some cases, that will simply be arresting and harassing them for other charges that are made up, but in others, it will force the city/state legislature to look into other methods. The DOJ doesn’t care if it’s an “approved public camping space” or a “sanctioned ‘free bed’ building” or something else entirely. It just makes it illegal to arrest someone for not having anywhere else to go.


May constitute cruel and unusual punishment? Guys, it’s intended to be cruel and unusual punishment.


Good. Does that mean cities will stop putting spikes and bumps on surfaces to prevent the homeless for sitting/lying comfortably, like they’re freaking pigeons?


Why? That has health and safety ramifications that someone sleeping peacefully does not.


If public defecation is a problem its because cities like to harass and make life difficult for the homeless rather than provide them with hassle-free options. Look at Utah’s (of all states) program for dealing with the homeless, they provide them with no strings attached free housing. And to date it has been the most successful program in the nation.

God forbid we treat those less fortunate like human beings.


I’ve always been amused that the same folks who complain about government mandates to buy insurance (vehicle or health) are the biggest proponents of laws mandating that everyone must buy or rent a residence.


Just pointing out that if sleeping outside is a right then public defecation would also be for the same reasons.

When adequate facilities exists, individuals have a choice about
whether or not to poop in public. However, when adequate facilities
do not exist, there is no meaningful distinction between the status of
being homeless and the conduct of pooping in public. pooping is a
life-sustaining activity—i.e., it must occur at some time in some place.
If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then enforcement of the
anti-pooping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being


No, again, fecal matter is a biohazard and has health and safety ramifications regarding its transportation and care. Someone sleeping on the sidewalk out of the public way will not spread disease. Fecal matter literally kills 1.4 million children every year due to contaminated water. I have yet to see a homeless person sleeping near a river cause deaths along that scale.

Stop being willfully obtuse to score a point. This is not the same thing.


No, because they have significantly different health implications. A houseless person sleeping next to a city building doesn’t pose a health risk to others, per se. Anyone defecating in such a place does pose a health risk to others.


This is exactly correct, all human required activities from waste elimination, to cooking, to sleeping, to cutting nails, to raising children is permissible out of doors as long as there is no other option, and this makes perfect sense.
Except it is ridiculous that we have regulated out the lower end of the housing economy in a way that becoming unemployed means not a flop house but homelessness for orphans and other people with no couch to crash on long term.
Homeless is also a description for people forced to live long term in an automobile.


I think this is a valid point, but I think it’s also valid to say that as a community we have a legitimate interest in not allowing people to “camp” just anywhere. But we can’t just make rules; we have to take on responsibilities to provide people shelter.

I start from the position of “natural right” in this matter; a person, born to this earth naked and afraid like we all are, has a natural right to inhabit the land underneath their feet, to build a shelter and use their natural surroundings to provide food and water for themselves. At a bare minimum, this is what we all have in our natural state. When we start to impose rules, and create a society that includes a system of ownership over every square inch of space, every deer in the forest, every tree that grows on the land, and every drop from every stream, we take away those natural rights. Anyone who chooses to join or remain in a society therefore gives up those rights under social contract, but they must be compensated for that exchange through that same social contract, because a contract is inherently an agreement between two parties that includes consideration on both sides. The consideration that the society must provide is that shelter, food and water and all those things that a person has as natural rights will be provided for them free of charge, if they are unable to provide for themselves under the rules that society creates. And those must be provided by those who have from the rules benefited the most.

I look at laws like the Zero Tolerance for Homeless Veterans Act and the programs that it has created that seem to be really effective at dealing with issues of homelessness and poverty, and I think that they provide the model for how we should treat everyone in this society who finds themselves unable under existing rules to provide for themselves. Maybe some day we’ll start to see that as our obligation not just to veterans, but to all our fellow citizens.



That’s pretty much like comparing humans to shit. Anyway, sleeping in public is a long ways from shitting in public.


I think of government as being the method that we use to organize the things we do for ourselves as a community. In that light, it’s really strange what things we’ve decided to make available to everyone and what we haven’t. Public toilets are extremely rare, but public roads are everywhere. Drinking and bathing water is almost never free, but libraries are. I like libraries and roads, but it’s strange what our priorities seem to be.


In support of public defection:
As has been pointed out, pooping is part of the natural condition and according to the logic of the legal argument presented by the DOJ, it should not be criminalized. However, others have rightly insisted that pooping leaves behind a bio hazard.
I think some middle ground exists here. As with the time and location restrictions on speech, I think some common sense restrictions on poop would be reasonable. We do not arrest our pets for defecating in public but we do fine the pet owner if the fail to police the poop. If a person must poop in public, then we should be able to expect them to clean up after themselves.


This is good, but it frustrates me a little bit that this even has to be uttered:

Well, that’s the point, innit? Boise, Idaho can’t be arsed to treat people well, so they just want to make it some other town’s responsibility.