VOCAL-KY Responds to Supreme Court Decision to Criminalize Homelessness & Poverty

CONTACT: Mariah McGough, mariah@vocal-ny.org, 203 470 9979

VOCAL-KY Responds to Supreme Court Decision to Criminalize Homelessness & Poverty

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

LOUISVILLE, K.Y. — Today, the Supreme Court decided that the US Constitution does not protect the poor and homeless against cruel and unusual punishment, even when they have no choice but to sleep in public using things like blankets or pillows. The decision sets a precedent to incarcerate, fine, and ticket the unhoused just for trying to survive rather than going to the root of the issue, which is that housing is unaffordable for millions of Americans. In response, VOCAL-KY released the following statement, attributable to Maurice Noe, a leader with VOCAL-KY who has experience homelessness:

“Arresting or fining people for trying to survive is expensive, counterproductive, and cruel. It wastes tax dollars on jail instead of help and housing, and it puts the poor further in debt. As someone who has lived on Louisville’s streets, I can confidently say this will only harm our friends and family struggling to get off our streets. And I’m not alone in knowing that. These six Supreme Court Justices ruled against what a recent poll found 72% of Americans believe: that arresting and fining people won’t solve homelessness. But it should come as no surprise from Supreme Court Justices who try to hide their trips on private jets paid for by their billionaire friends. The way to end homelessness is through affordable housing, and supportive services for those who need them!

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, VOCAL-KY 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.