BOISE, Idaho (CBS 2) — The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the city of Boise's request to have a re-hearing after the court ruled against it last fall, saying that the city's policy about homeless people is unconstitutional.
In September, the decision from the 9th Circuit said prosecuting people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go is cruel and unusual punishment. The city had asked for an "en banc" re-hearing, which would have meant a larger panel of judges than the usual three that are used in appeals. Six homeless individuals sued the city in 2009.
“Future petitions for rehearing or rehearing en banc will not be entertained in this case," the court said.
This lawsuit is being watched closely by other cities around the country that either have similar homeless ordinances in place or have been considering one.
The city of Boise issued the following statement.
"Today’s decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in the case Martin v. City of Boise changes nothing in the disposition of the city’s camping ordinance. The case alleges that the city’s ordinances that regulate camping and disorderly conduct violate the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
Today’s ruling simply confirmed an earlier ruling by a three-justice 9th Circuit panel that remanded the case back to the federal district court – basically saying that the case needs to be litigated further. Today’s ruling simply rejected the city’s request for a re-hearing before the full 9th circuit panel and affirmed the Sept. 4, 2018 ruling by that overturned the 2015 summary judgement ruling by the district court that dismissed plaintiff’s claims.
Today’s ruling does not mean the city ordinances are (unconstitutional). it simply has the effect of forcing the matter to be litigated further. Therefore, the city’s camping and disorderly conduct ordinances remain in effect until further clarification can be obtained from the courts; the ruling will not cause us to change our procedures. Since 2014, the City of Boise’s policy has been to suspend ticketing for camping in the city when there is no room in our local homeless shelters. Language in the appellate court’s complicated ruling seemed to affirm that practice, yet the panel still remanded the case back to the district court for further findings.
It is important to note that writing citations for camping is used as sparely as possible. In 2018, a total of 30 citations for camping were written in Boise. In all of 2017, only six citations were written. Yet, it remains an important tool in the community’s overall effort to help those experiencing homelessness.
All of Boise’s non-profit partners that serve those experiencing homelessness are essential to the community’s overall efforts to help these residents. Without these wonderful partners, Boise’s challenges in fighting this societal issue would be much more complicated.
In the meantime, the City of Boise continues to work with a wide variety of community partners to create badly needed resources for the 120-140 chronically homeless in our community. New Path Community Housing, Idaho’s first Housing First project, opened in the fall with room for 40 chronically homeless families and individuals. A similar project for the benefit of veterans experiencing homelessness veterans will also be a reality in the coming months.
Housing First is a data-driven proven concept that provides the chronically homeless with a stable housing environment first and then provides ‘wrap-around’ services – health care, addiction counseling, mental health counseling, etc. – to help them address the root causes of their homelessness.
These projects and their proof-of-concept could help the community to significantly reduce, if not eradicate, the numbers of chronically homeless on our streets. If realized, such a scenario would allow more community resources to be directed toward the broader populations of residents experiencing homelessness, but who are not chronically homeless.