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07/25/2024 04:08 PM
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: July 2, 2024 10:58 AM
From: Senator Nikil Saval and Sen. Vincent J. Hughes, Sen. Amanda M. Cappelletti, Sen. Timothy P. Kearney
To: All Senate members
Subject: Preventing the Criminalization of Homelessness
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Grants Pass v. Johnson threatens the safety and dignity of veterans, families with children, and working people. Anyone who find themselves unable to afford a place to live in a time of skyrocketing rents could be subject to the criminal justice system. Already we see legislation proposed or passed not just in Oregon but in California, Utah, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida—red and blue states alike where certain local governments have abdicated their responsibilities to meet the needs of their people.   

Each day, our offices receive calls from constituents terrified at the prospect of losing their homes. In counties as different as Lancaster, Allegheny, Delaware, and Philadelphia, our neighbors fear losing their homes, and that the lives they know will crumble. Our ability to secure a job, send our children to school, and keep our families healthy, relies on having a home. The American Dream is anchored by the ability of middle and working-class people to secure a safe home for their families. Without this anchor, people are more likely to be caught up in the justice system or suffer from addiction, and people in the justice system are far more likely to experience homelessness. Criminalizing a person, or a family, for being homeless is cruel, and study after study shows that it is a gross misuse of public resources, and that it serves only to worsen the crisis it claims to combat.  

Accordingly, in the near future, we will introduce legislation to clarify that homelessness cannot be criminalized in Pennsylvania. This legislation will seek to guarantee the right to be outside and the right to share in public spaces, while ensuring that local governments secure adequate low-barrier housing to accommodate the houseless population. 

The first step out of houselessness is a home. Please join us in cosponsoring this legislation to prevent the further criminalization of housing insecurity, and to ensure our neighbors’ access to safe, stable homes.