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Grants Pass v Johnson - Poster of the Week


What's the Difference between a Prisoner of War and a Homeless Person

Guerilla Girls

Offset, 1991

New York, NY

17288


As we follow the mass student protests that are intensifying around the country, we must ask: why can't the U.S.'s vast resources for supporting genocide instead support people in need? This Guerilla Girls' poster highlights this country's inconsistent stance on human rights.


The Supreme Court this week is hearing arguments in City of Grants Pass, Oregon V. Johnson. Its outcome will determine whether a local government has the authority to ban unhoused people from sleeping or camping in public areas. The case began in 2019, when Grants Pass, Oregon was sued by a coalition of unhoused people for violating the Constitution's 8th Amendment, arguing that the removal of unhoused people from their encampments without providing alternative shelter is cruel and unusual punishment. Essentially SCOTUS is determining whether experiencing homelessness is a behavior or a status.


The homelessness crisis in the United States continues to escalate. Over 650,000 people nationally were experiencing homelessness last year, an increase of 22% from 2022. Behavior suggests choice. There are many reasons for people being unhoused. These include: the housing crisis, exacerbation of wealth inequality, prohibitively expensive health care, or the various drug epidemics fueled by both the government and unregulated pharmaceutical companies since the 1980s. The effects of these compounding crises do not allow room for much choice.


A society that not only abandons but also punishes its most vulnerable populations is failing its citizens, Fining and imprisoning people who already lack resources is cruel and unusual punishment, and it does nothing to solve the causes of the crisis.


 

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