The Obama Department of Justice argued last week that a Boise, Idaho, law against “public sleeping in a city without adequate shelter space constitutes criminalizing homelessness itself, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.” In a statement of interest filed in federal court, the Obama administration asserted that banning sleeping and camping in public places constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.” Republican candidates, please take note.
Mike Journee, spokesman for Boise Mayor David Bieter, described his city as “a fairly progressive island in a deeply red state.” Bieter is trying to address homelessness, Journee told me, “from a holistic standpoint” — and with compassion. That said, the Obama statement is “misguided” in that it is based on a notion that “those experiencing homelessness have no recourse and we are willy-nilly criminalizing this by writing tickets for people who have no options. That is not the case.”
Homeless advocates have a mantra: No one chooses to be homeless.
I’m sure that’s true for some people, but there are homeless individuals who make a series of self-destructive choices that inevitably lead them to homelessness.