Supreme Court weighs bans on sleeping in public spaces

More than 650,000 people could find themselves without a home on any given night across the country. It’s an eye-opening reality that you have likely seen across our area as well.

Currently, the Supreme Court is reviewing a case to decide whether cities can fine and arrest people for sleeping in public spaces.

Channel 9′s Eli Brand delved into how this ruling could impact Charlotte.

He found that the ruling could have a big effect on ordinances passed by the city of Charlotte earlier this year. One of those new ordinances makes sleeping in public parks a misdemeanor.

The case, which stems from Oregon, will answer the question of whether that type of ordinance is cruel and usual punishment.

If the Supreme Court rules that it is, then cities and states across the nation could be barred from enforcing those laws.

Along with making it a crime to sleep in parks, the city council also passed five more laws that could have a big impact on people experiencing homelessness. Those include making public urination, open containment, and lewd acts illegal.

ALSO READ: ‘Anything to try to help’: Gastonia woman’s experience with homelessness inspires charity service

The attorney defending homeless laws before the Supreme Court spoke out on Monday.

“The city’s hands will be tied. It will be forced to surrender its public space as it has been,” Attorney Theane Evangelis said.

Deborah Phillips with Block Love Charlotte assists those who need to get into shelters. She agrees that these laws are hurtful.

“When you criminalize somebody, even if you’re just fining them, that information is public information, and to a landlord, that’s a strike or something that they frown upon, and it makes it even harder for those that are already marginalized to get housing,” Phillips explained.

She said she hopes something is done to help a problem that she said is only getting worse.

“We have to not hurt but help find solutions to getting people off the streets, and I just don’t think it’s fair to criminalize them,” Phillips said.

Decisions from the Supreme Court are typically handed down by the end of the term. The current term comes to a close near the end of June.

VIDEO: ‘Anything to try to help’: Gastonia woman’s experience with homelessness inspires charity service