Supreme Court rules cities may enforce laws against homeless encampments

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This morning, the Supreme Court ruled that cities can now enforce laws that criminalize sleeping outside. 

Prosecuting people for sleeping outside had previously been classified as cruel and unusual punishment.

Betty Kwan Chinn of the Betty Kwan Chinn homeless foundation in Eureka has mixed feelings on this update. 

“I see both sides. You know, I know the homeless people are sleeping at businesses in the doorway and leave a mess, but they need to sleep, where are they going to go? But I wish they could pick up whatever mess they’d had in there, but they’re not all together. Sometimes a mental health issue, you know. But, you know, on the other hand, I feel like the city, the programs, I run all these programs, but they don’t want the help”, says Chinn.

Part of Chinns program involves getting people clean of any addiction they might have. 

“Well, if you can do it, I can house them and feed them, I can care for them. But the other part, maybe some other people can come do another part to help them. There’s so many coming in. Every day I have people call from out of the area. Can I be served a place”, she says. 

Chinn understands it’s an issue within the community but is unsure about the criminalization of it. 

“One day I saw a guy lying down in the alley and only had a jacket cover up to the shoulder. I tried to help him and put him up. I said, do you need a place to stay? And then, if you do, I have a place for you to go, and then he got up and sat down, talked to me, said Miss Betty, I’m not an indoor person”, she said. 

“So, I hope it won’t come to criminal charges. But, you know, I don’t know how to teach them to help themselves”, says Chinn. 

A community effort on all fronts, she says, is important. 

“The first officer I worked with was really compassionate to the people, but I don’t know how they’re feeling. And I know a lot because they’re dealing with the homeless as a people. So, I know them very well”, says Chinn. 

“What I tell you, is truth. What I see, I see at the heart”. 

Story by Tucker Caraway