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San Francisco could be given more leeway in how it removes encampments

Homeless sweeps continue to court controversy ahead of Supreme Court ruling
Homeless sweeps continue to court controversy ahead of Supreme Court ruling 04:49

Residents and many of the unhoused in the Tenderloin near Leavenworth Avenue say sidewalk sweeps happen several times a week, and the Supreme Court may give cities more leeway to continue the practice.

Amigo's Market owner Nageeb Quraish has noticed a difference over the last couple of months. 

"Not so many people hanging around. The streets have been cleaned," said Quarish.  

The small business owner opened his store on Leavenworth and Ellis 20 years ago. He said the proliferation of tent encampments on nearby sidewalks has been problematic. 

"If it's blocking the way of people walking on the sidewalk to get here and tents are blocking them then that's a concern," said Quarish. 

He supports the city's effort to keep the sidewalks clear. 

"Some people would be afraid to come into businesses like this when they see a lot of people gathering or on the street," said Quarish.

Cities like San Francisco have been limited in how they can enforce encampment cleanups because of previous lower court rulings. 

"So the question is 'Do the homeless have some constitutional protection from being criminalized for what they have to do," said Rory Little. 

Little is a constitutional law professor at UC Law San Francisco. 

"The likely result is that they will reverse the night circuit ruling," said Little. 

A Supreme Court reversal would give cities more leverage in how they address homelessness, including encampments on sidewalks and parks. 

"They're not going to get into the business of detailed regulation of the homelessness issue, and that in itself will be in a sense of victory for the city of Grants Pass," said Little. 

Little believes federal courts will have less of a role to play in the detailed day-to-day treatment of the homelessness issue.

Quarish said he's open to more city enforcement to keep sidewalks clear of tents.  

"They're supposed to follow. That's fair.  If that means they have to move them from one place to another they're supposed to follow and move," said Quarish. 

He believes that's good for small businesses and the city as a whole. The case is among the last to be argued this term. 

It's unlikely to be decided before late June.

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