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(July 1, 2024 – New York) Urban Resource Institute (URI) released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, which ruled that “camping ban” laws restricting unhoused individuals from sleeping on public property do not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” and are therefore not prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.

“As the largest provider of domestic violence shelter in the country, and a leading provider of shelter for unhoused families, URI is deeply distressed by the Supreme Court’s decision in City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, allowing municipalities to ban street homelessness.”

Every day, URI’s team works with hundreds of families in New York City who have lost their homes due to violence or poverty. Many of our families, the vast majority of whom are BIPOC women and children, have been forced to sleep on the street at some point in their journey. These women and children are not guilty of any crime. Neither are the single survivors without children, such as trafficking survivors, older adults, male-identified, and LGBTQIA+ survivors who struggle to access the safety of shelter because there are not enough rooms for singles, and downsizing would be financially ruinous for shelter providers.

Homelessness is not a crime or a moral failure; it is a policy failure.

Even in a place like NYC where there is a right to shelter, over 4,000 New Yorkers experience unsheltered homelessness each night.   Many New Yorkers pay a significant portion of their income toward rent. The cost of housing has skyrocketed while the pace of affordable housing development has slowed to a near crawl.

Domestic violence, which after eviction is the single largest driver of homelessness has increased exponentially here in New York and across the country. Despite this, investment in community-based violence prevention and intervention continues to lag.

Criminalizing homelessness is not a solution. Penalizing people with civil penalties they cannot afford to pay or criminal penalties that will end up on a permanent record will only make it more difficult for people with vulnerabilities to achieve stability, like housing and employment.

Moving unhoused individuals and families out of sight does not change the reality that they would not be there if they had a safe, stable and affordable place to go.

We must invest in comprehensive solutions that address the root causes of domestic violence and poverty, including domestic violence prevention, trauma-informed intervention, safe and stable transitional housing, affordable housing, and workforce development.  Additionally, our shelter system must be equipped to accommodate the diverse needs of unhoused families and individuals.

URI is committed to a future that is free from the trauma of homelessness and violence; to a future where no individual is forced to sleep on the street. Punishing poverty and homelessness only exacerbates the dangers faced by survivors of domestic violence and unhoused families. The SCOTUS in City of Grants Pass v. Johnson has made survivors of domestic violence and unhoused families markedly less safe.

About Urban Resource Institute (URI):
URI is the largest provider of temporary housing for survivors of domestic violence in the country and a leading provider of transitional housing for families experiencing homelessness. Committed to ending cycles of violence and homelessness, URI offers trauma-informed, client-centered support to the families it serves. With 24 shelters in New York City, including 15 shelters specifically for domestic violence survivors, URI provides temporary housing to over 3,700 people each night and trauma-informed programming to approximately 40,000 people annually. Learn more by visiting www.urinyc.org.