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How You Can Support Our Unhoused Neighbors After Supreme Court Ruling Criminalizing Street Homelessness

supreme court

By Carol J. Sharp, MPA
President & CEO

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that laws criminalizing sleeping in public spaces do not violate the U.S. Constitution, even when individuals are unhoused and their communities do not have sufficient shelter capacity.

The Court announced this decision less than 10 days after the City of Chicago released the results of its 2024 Point-in-Time Count which, on one night in January, found more than 1,600 of our neighbors living unsheltered on the streets of Chicago.This represents a 65% increase over 2023's Point-In-Time Count number.

Criminalizing homelessness is a cruel, inhumane solution that does nothing to solve the problem. We are encouraged to hear Chicago's new Chief Homelessness Officer, Sendy Soto, tell the Chicago Tribune that unhoused Chicagoans have nothing to fear from this ruling and that Chicago intents to prioritize housing-focused solutions to homelessness. However, we know that this ruling will embolden communities in other parts of Illinois and our neighboring states to fine or arrest those who have no choice but to sleep outdoors and pass other laws that criminalize homelessness.

Today, The Night Ministry is more committed than ever to provide human connection, housing support, and health care to youth and adults in Chicago who are unhoused or experiencing poverty. Last year, we supported more than 200 youth and adults as they moved into their own apartments or transitioned into more safe and stable housing. Our nurse practitioners and medical partners completed 2,350 health assessments, healing the conditions created or exacerbated by the traumatic experience of homelessness.

So what can you do? Join The Night Ministry and our advocacy partners at organizations like Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, National Network for Youth, and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and:

1) Learn about current attempts to criminalize homelessness in states bordering Illinois. If you hear your local elected officials proposing these "solutions," speak up! If you live in one of these states, demand that your state prioritize housing-focused solutions to homelessness.

2) Support federal legislation that offers real solutions to youth homelessness and helps individuals connect to services:

3) Be a good neighbor to individuals in your community who are unhoused.To find out more, read The Night Ministry's updated Good Neighbor Guide!

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