VOCAL-TX Responds to SCOTUS Decision to Criminalize Homelessness & Poverty

CONTACT: Cate Graziani, cate@vocal-tx.org, 919-360-1007


The Answer to Ending Homelessness is Permanent, Affordable Housing — Not Fines, Tickets and Incarceration

AUSTIN, Texas — The U.S. Supreme Court today decided that the U.S. Constitution does not protect people who are unhoused against cruel and unusual punishment, even when they have no choice but to sleep in public using things like blankets or pillows. As we have seen firsthand in Austin, arresting or fining people for trying to survive is expensive, counterproductive, and cruel. In response, VOCAL-TX released the following statement, attributable to Barry Jones, a VOCAL-TX Leader:

“In an unsurprising but shameful ruling, the least democratic branch of our government has just empowered communities across the country to do what is already the status quo in Austin and Texas: punish people for being poor. Regardless of the Court’s ruling, we know that jailing or ticketing people for experiencing homelessness is cruel and unusual, inhumane, and makes homelessness worse. When they lay their heads down to sleep tonight, thousands of homeless people across America will be breaking the law. We have been fighting against criminalization and for the dignity and rights of people who are unhoused for many years and we will remain steadfast in our commitment to replace criminalization with compassion, care and housing.” 


In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, VOCAL-TX stands with organizations across the country calling on the Biden administration and Congress to make a downpayment investment of at least $356 billion in the next year with continued funding in future years to ensure that everybody has safe, decent housing that they can afford. Specifically, we call for full funding of:

  • Universal rental assistance for lowest-income households 
  • Public housing repair and preservation 
  • National Housing Trust Fund 
  • Eviction and homelessness prevention
  • Voluntary supportive and emergency services 

Johnson v Grants Pass is a court case that said it is cruel and unusual punishment to arrest or ticket people for sleeping outside when they have no other safe place to go. The case started in Grants Pass, Oregon, when the city began issuing tickets for people sleeping on public property, even when there were no safe, welcoming shelter beds. Half of renters in Grants Pass residents are paying more than 30% of their income on rent. The lack of housing that people can afford is a major cause of homelessness in Grants Pass and across the country. 

Passed in 2021, Austin’s Prop B and Texas state law HB 1925 criminalize sleeping outside leading to inhumane camp sweeps and hundreds of tickets and arrests each year.