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For Immediate Release

Supreme Court decision on criminalizing homelessness a “tragic failure of governance,” says David M. Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference


Kara Beigay

(202) 466-2121, ext. 284

Washington, DC – The National Housing Conference’s (NHC) President and CEO David M. Dworkin issued the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson that individuals who are experiencing homelessness are not protected under the Constitution’s provisions against cruel and unusual punishment.

“The Supreme Court’s decision on criminalizing homelessness is a tragic failure of governance and a significant step backwards for resolving the homelessness crisis in the United States. Today’s ruling criminally penalizes people for often unavoidable circumstances and violates the basic dignities and human rights of our most vulnerable citizens. Punishing individuals for sleeping in public spaces when no alternative shelter is available is unjust, counterproductive, and has repeatedly been proven as ineffective by the broadest range of housing experts.

This decision sets a dangerous precedent for the half a million people who sleep outside each night in America and for the millions of families who are just one missed paycheck away from losing their homes. In far too many cities in America, thousands of people wake up in a tent or car, wash up in a public restroom, and go to work every day. There are few more effective ways to condemn them to chronic homelessness than prosecuting rather than housing them. Ironically, the cost of incarceration is significantly greater than the cost of affordable housing.

The primary driver of homelessness remains the lack of affordable housing. Adequate funding, good policy, and evidence-based program design informed by people with lived expertise are required to move people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing. Promoting affordable housing as a strategy to reduce the risk of homelessness through rental assistance, and increasing the supply of units affordable to extremely low-income households is vital to making sustainable reductions in homelessness.

If you don’t want affordable housing in your backyard, you’re going to have homelessness in your front yard. Ensuring that everyone has a safe place to call home is the solution to this crisis.”


About the National Housing Conference (NHC): Founded in 1931, the National Housing Conference is the oldest and broadest housing coalition in America. NHC is a diverse continuum of affordable housing stakeholders who convene and collaborate through dialogue, advocacy, research, and education, to develop equitable solutions that serve our common interest—an America where everyone is able to live in a quality, affordable home in a thriving community. Politically diverse and nonpartisan, NHC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. To learn more about NHC, visit

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