In May 2021, in the case of LA Alliance v. Los Angeles, Judge David O. Carter of the Central District of California granted a sweeping order enjoining the city and county of Los Angeles to offer shelter to all unhoused persons living in Skid Row. The 109-page order identified structural racism and government indifference as the unconstitutional causes of homelessness in the region, and condemned California’s housing-first approach to addressing the issue. Although the Ninth Circuit swiftly vacated the preliminary injunction on procedural grounds, Judge Carter’s order begs the question: would universal shelter offers actually ameliorate the homelessness crisis? This Note argues that per Martin v. Boise, which declared anti-camping ordinances unconstitutional in cities without adequate shelter bed availability, providing those individuals with shelter would reopen the door to criminalizing homelessness by providing a way around Martin’s holding. Thus, the counterintuitive result of offering housing or shelter to all unhoused persons would be one step forward vis-à-vis housing and shelter, but one step backward vis-à-vis the criminalization of homelessness. This perverse and paradoxical legal paradigm situates those who seek to address homelessness, like Judge Carter, in the position of hurting the unhoused by virtue of helping them. To prevent cities from violating unhoused people’s fundamental rights while undermining renewed efforts to address housing insecurity, this Note proposes that California ban the practice of criminalizing homelessness within its borders.
Gregory A. Alonge,
"Judicial Frustration": A Local Judge's Bold Attempt to Solve the Homelessness Crisis from the Bench,
56 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 267
Available at: https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/llr/vol56/iss1/11