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Supreme Court case could be game-changer for Sacramento's homeless enforcement

Supreme Court taking on homelessness could be gamechanger for Sacramento's enforcement
Supreme Court taking on homelessness could be gamechanger for Sacramento's enforcement 02:21

SACRAMENTO — The Supreme Court is now weighing a ban on sleeping outdoors, which could be a game changer for how Sacramento handles homeless encampment enforcement.

It's a high-stakes case for Sacramento's homeless crisis and business owners seeking a new approach to the city's homeless crisis.

Sacramento business owner Michael Hare says homeless encampments outside The Exotic Body shop have cost him lost sales and extra security.

"Not only is there no clarity, there is no consistency," Hare said. "I understand that the homeless people have rights and I want them to have rights, but what about my rights as a business owner and taxpayer?"

Sacramento County District Attorney Thien Ho posted a photo to Facebook showing him outside the Supreme Court with California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis and entrepreneur Garry Tan.

Earlier this morning, Sacramento District Attorney Thien Ho attended oral arguments on the Grants Pass/Martin v Boise...

Posted by Sacramento County District Attorney's Office on Monday, April 22, 2024

Ho's amicus brief in the case follows a lawsuit he filed against the city of Sacramento for failing to enforce its own anti-camping ordinances.

"It makes me think he's looking where he's going to go after he leaves the Sacramento district attorney's office," civil rights attorney Mark Merin said. 

Merin is a founder of Safe Ground Sacramento and has advocated against law enforcement response to homeless encampments.

"Where are these homeless people going to go," Merin said. "They need housing, they have to go into housing. There has to be public housing there has to be affordable housing."

The current Supreme Court case Grants Pass v. Johnson started in Grants Pass, Oregon, when that city began fining people $295 for sleeping outside.

The case is now leading the highest court to clarify rules on enforcement in cities across the country, creating high stakes for Sacramento's high-profile problem and businesses seeking cleaner streets for their customers.

"Nobody's looking out for the small business owners," Hare said.

Mayor Darryl Steinberg issued a statement calling for the court to strike a balance between enforcement and compassion.

The court is expected to decide the case by the end of June.

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