April 22, 2024

Congresswoman Bush, Colleagues Hold Press Conference at Supreme Court Ahead of Oral Arguments for Grants Pass v. Johnson

WATCH: Follows Bush Amicus Brief Arguing Criminalizing Homelessness Violates Eighth Amendment

Washington, D.C. (Apr. 22, 2024) – Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), joined by Representatives Delia Ramirez (IL-03), Maxwell Frost (FL-10), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) and several housing advocates, hosted a press conference in front of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments in Grants Pass v. Johnson, a critical case that will decide whether cities are allowed to jail, ticket, or fine people for sleeping outside, even when there are no shelter options available. This is the most influential case on housing that the Supreme Court has taken up in nearly half a century.

Earlier this month, Congresswoman Bush and 18 of her colleagues sent a bicameral amicus brief to the Supreme Court in opposition to the threat of criminalizing unhoused people across the country.

“Instead of enacting real solutions to the unhoused crisis, Grants Pass has taken this case all the way to the Supreme Court and is calling for the Court to overturn a landmark decision from 1962 that says the government cannot punish people based on status. So we’re here today to demand the Supreme Court support humanity, adhere to constitutional precedent, and protect the rights of our unhoused neighbors,” said Congresswoman Cori Bush. “A person should never be punished for not being able to afford rent or a home. A person should never be punished for sleeping outside or in a car when they have no other place to go. A person should never be punished for simply existing. We need universal housing, universal housing vouchers, and a permanent federal rental assistance program — these are all tangible steps that would actually solve this crisis.”

“It is despicable that there are those who would seek to punish our neighbors for simply trying to survive in an impossible situation.  We have proven over and over again that we are more willing to try to make the problem of homelessness disappear by arresting, criminalizing, and penalizing unhoused people than we are to solve the problem.  And the solution is not complicated: Unhoused people need housing. Housing is the answer. Housing NOT Handcuffs,” said Congresswoman Delia Ramirez.

“It’s a shame that cities across the country are passing ordinances criminalizing folks experiencing homelessness, but the truth of the matter is that what these cities are also criminalizing are the results of the inaction of our elected leaders,” said Congressman Maxwell Frost. “We cannot arrest ourselves out of this problem. This Supreme Court cannot encourage the actions of cities and governments that have failed to help their people in a time of need. We know the solution to our housing crisis, and it’s not fines and handcuffs.”

“Jailing, ticketing, or fining people experiencing homelessness will not address the fundamental lack of affordable and supportive housing. I’m grateful to stand with my Caucus on Homelessness Co-Chair Congresswoman Bush to state firmly that people experiencing homelessness need support services and homes, not punishment,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici.

Watch the full recording of the press conference HERE.

The housing advocacy groups who spoke at the press conference include:

  • National Homelessness Law Center
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
  • National Alliance to End Homelessness
  • National Coalition for the Homeless

“Homelessness in Grants Pass, like in all of America, is growing because there is no housing that people can afford, not because cities lack ways to arrest or ticket people sleeping outside. The fundamental question of this case is, “Do the Constitution’s protections include people forced to live outside?” said Jesse Rabinowitz, Campaign and Communications Director for the National Homelessness Law Center. “The fact that we even have to ask that is a damning indictment of our failure to solve the homelessness crisis in America. Housing solves homelessness; handcuffs make homelessness worse.”  

During her tenure in Congress, Congresswoman Bush has been a fierce advocate for affordable housing and the unhoused community. 

  • Last month, out of the $13.7 million Congresswoman Bush secured in this year's Community Project Funding, approximately $4.5 million went to various housing and housing-related projects across the district.
  • In December 2023, Congresswoman Bush—in her capacity as Vice Chair of the Criminalization of Poverty on the Poverty Task Force and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness—led a member-level briefing educating members of Congress about how the federal government can decriminalize homelessness. 
  • In March 2023, Congresswoman Bush joined her fellow Co-Chairs to re-establish the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness—a caucus dedicated to educating members of Congress and their staff on the complex issues faced by unhoused persons.
  • In July 2023, Congresswoman Bush reintroduced the Unhoused Bill of Rights, a resolution that declares unalienable rights for unhoused persons and provides solutions for the federal government to permanently end the crisis by 2027.