Supreme Court allows cities to ban homeless camps

The United States Supreme Court ruled Friday that homeless people can be fined and/or arrested for camping or sleeping in public-owned spaces, overturning a lower court’s ruling.

The decision will not affect the ‘Safer Kentucky Act,’ sponsored by Rep. Jared Bauman and passed during the 2024 legislative session.

The Safer Kentucky Act bans street camping on public streets, sidewalks, paths, or public areas normally used by pedestrians and/or vehicles, private property, homes, or businesses. The measure prevents property owners from being held criminally liable for any actions taken to defend themselves from the aggressive actions of a person refusing to vacate an illegal street camp, and any such aggression by the camper can be prosecuted as assault.

Additionally, the measure authorizes local control by allowing local governments to designate indoor or outdoor areas separate from public areas for camping.

“I applaud the Court’s ruling today, an opinion which, despite what critics will say, underscores the importance of providing the homeless with opportunities for treatment and shelter,” Bauman said. “The opinion also highlights how crucial it is that homeless individuals participate in such services. Further, the opinion recognizes that we can’t ignore the public safety and private property interests involved in this complex issue.”

“This decision reflects a commitment to upholding the Constitution and embodies a compassionate approach towards our homeless population,” he continued. “We must continue working together to support Kentuckians in need. I commend the Court for interpreting the law with integrity and rendering a decision that enhances public safety. This session, we passed the Safer Kentucky Act with overwhelming support, and we stepped up to override the Governor’s shortsighted veto, reaffirming our dedication to public safety.”