The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, on a 3-2 vote, approved a motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn to add the county to the legal action seeking U.S. Supreme Court review of the Martin v. City of Boise decision on public camping.
The city of Boise, Idaho contends that the 9th Circuit’s April decision effectively creates a constitutional right to camp, holding that cities cannot prevent anyone from camping until they first provide enough shelter beds for everyone, thus exempting public encampments from a host of public health and safety laws.
“Los Angeles County and municipalities across the nation are facing a deepening homelessness crisis that demands we have more tools — not more roadblocks — necessary to address the issue in an effective, compassionate manner,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the county’s Fifth District, including the Santa Clarita Valley.
“One of the most difficult challenges we face in combatting homelessness is assisting those on our streets living with a serious mental illness,” Barger said. “The Martin decision ties the hands of municipalities from enforcing common-sense public camping ordinances that would allow us to provide life-saving treatment to this vulnerable population.”
The severity of the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles County is acute. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a record-high 58,936 county residents are experiencing homelessness, an increase of more than 12% from 2018, with increases among children and youth, 8,500 of whom are experiencing homelessness, up 24% from 2018.
The average life expectancy for individuals experiencing homelessness in the County is 48 for women and 51 for men, compared with California’s average life expectancy of 83 years for women and 79 years for men. In 2018, 918 individuals experiencing homelessness died across the county. As of early September 2019, 698 homeless people have died this year. Nearly three homeless persons die each day.
On April 1, 2019, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals published Martin v. City of Boise. The city of Boise then filed a petition seeking review in August 2019. Amicus briefs in support of the city of Boise are due later this month. At least two dozen California cities and counties, including San Jose, Sacramento, San Diego County and Sacramento County, are supporting an amicus brief, along with the city of Los Angeles.
Other impacted sectors will also be filing amicus briefs in opposition to Martin, including stakeholders from local businesses and on-the-ground homeless services providers including the People Concern and Chrysalis, who deal firsthand with the homelessness crisis.
Tuesday’s action instructs County Counsel to file an amicus brief and/or join as amici to any legal action seeking to overturn Martin v. City of Boise, and any other litigation aimed at challenging this decision, as deemed appropriate. Supervisors Kuehl and Solis dissented.