Court denies re-hearing of Grants Pass homeless case

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – The Ninth U.S. Circuit of Appeals denying a re-hearing of a Grants Pass case punishing homeless who sleep in public places.

City manager Aaron Cubic said the city is disappointed, but isn’t stopping now.

 “We are now appealing to the supreme court to hear the case,” Cubic said. “So that is our next step. We’re in this really for an opportunity to allow jurisdictions the freedom to self regulate this very difficult policy decision of homelessness.”

In 2018, a homeless woman filed a lawsuit against Grants Pass, saying the city’s anti-camping ordinance and criminal trespass laws, violate her 8th and 14th amendment rights.

Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the woman, saying cities do violate the eight amendment if they punish a person for sleeping outside, when there’s no where else for them to go.

The city, despite its recent efforts, has been unable to build a low barrier shelter.

Cubic said the court’s injunction is making it difficult for the city implement time, place, manner and conduct rules that fits their community.

“We have had to be very careful about how we’re enforcing that injunction, to make sure we are following the letter of the law and that we’re fair an equitable to all users of the park system,” Cubic said.

In May, the city announced it would close it’s most popular park, Riverside Park, for a month.

During that time, city council adopted a new city ordinance, creating park buffers.

Now, a 20-foot buffer will be around city park sidewalks, athletic areas and structures, as well as 50 foot buffers around play areas. 

People can sit and sleep within those buffers, but can’t set up tents in them.

Cubic said it seems to be working, at least so far.

“We have seen a very positive impact,” he said. “We’ve got families who are recreating, utilizing the splash park, we have people needing to rest, being able to rest in a location where they can have a tent erected and people to rest in the day or night. It’s been a great combination, it’s been working well, we’ve been able to enforce it well.”

Cubic said it May take months before the city finds out if the supreme court will take up the case.

Park goers tell us they noticed a difference immediately once park buffers were implemented, with less homeless at Riverside Park.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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