Home » News » Press Release: Standing Against the Criminalization of Poverty

Press Release: Standing Against the Criminalization of Poverty

LWVC Logo Small

The LWVC Joins Civic Organizations and Local Leaders on Amici Curiae Brief – Standing Against the Criminalization of Poverty


MEDIA CONTACT: Raya Steier, rsteier@lccrsf.org, C: 530-723-2426


Sacramento, Calif.— This week, the League of Women Voters of California joined the League of Women Voters of San Francisco and a broad coalition of current and former San Francisco officials and community organizations in submitting an amici curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, the most significant U.S. Supreme Court case regarding the civil rights of homeless people in modern history.  

“In joining this crucial amicus brief, the League of Women Voters of California stands firmly for the principle that justice and dignity must guide our response to homelessness. The criminalization of poverty serves only to deepen the crisis, not solve it. This moment demands bold action, not just from our courts, but from all levels of government, to address the root causes of homelessness with compassion and respect for the constitutional rights of our most vulnerable residents.” said Stephanie Doute, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of California.  “Our commitment is to a California where every person has access to affordable housing and the security it brings. It’s time for our leaders to move beyond punitive measures and work towards real, sustainable solutions that honor the values of justice and equality for all.”

The brief asserts that cities across California have unfairly scapegoated unhoused residents for an affordable housing crisis that State and local governments created with decades of virulently racist anti-housing policies. As a result, thousands of long-time residents, disproportionately people of color, have been forced onto the streets. Instead of addressing the root causes of the affordable housing crisis as promised, California cities instead punish homeless residents by fining or arresting them for being poor. These archaic practices are a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution.    

The State of California knows better. It has told the Supreme Court that what the City of Grants Pass is doing in Oregon—attempting to jail or forcibly eject all of its unhoused residents just for having nowhere else to sleep—violates decades of Supreme Court precedent. There is no disagreement on this narrow question of law. So why did California politicians press for the Supreme Court to take this case when they agreed with the outcome?

The amici brief explains how California politicians have used the Grants Pass case to stage a political drama that blames judges for their own failure to address the homelessness crisis. Nothing stops California from investing in affordable housing and emergency shelter for thousands of its residents forced to sleep outside. And nothing stops California from enforcing every applicable health, safety, and other legal restriction to ensure safe conditions on our streets.

Amici were compelled to address the Supreme Court because Californians deserve accountability from their leaders, not excuses and misinformation. The American public also deserves the truth. California politicians cannot arrest themselves out of the housing crisis they created. They must finally deliver on their promise to make housing affordable again for hundreds of thousands of Californians living paycheck to paycheck.  

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Grants Pass on April 22, 2024. Regardless of the outcome, it is imperative that cities across California recognize that true progress cannot be achieved through brutal criminalization policies that do not address the primary driver of homelessness—affordable housing.


About the LWVC

The League of Women Voters of California is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization working to protect and expand voting rights, build grassroots power in our communities, drive policy change on the biggest challenges facing our state, and ensure everyone is represented in our democracy. For more information, visit lwvc.org