Garbage, feces and needles run through the rivers in Missoula, Mont. On the streets of San Francisco, tents are so thick that sidewalks in the Tenderloin neighborhood have become “unofficial open-air public housing.” In Portland, Ore., a blaze shut down an on-ramp to the Steel Bridge for several days in March after campers tunneled through a cinder block wall and lit a campfire to stay warm.
A homeless encampment in Phoenix in February.Credit...Todd Heisler/The New York Times
In a surge of legal briefs this week, frustrated leaders from across the political spectrum, including the liberal governor of California and right-wing state legislators in Arizona, charged that homeless encampments were turning their public spaces into pits of squalor, and asked the Supreme Court to revisit lower court decisions that they say have hobbled their ability to bring these camps under control.
The urgent pleas come as leaders across the country, and particularly in the West, have sought to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic and restore normalcy in cities. In more than two dozen briefs filed in an appeal of a decision on homeless policies in a southern Oregon town, officials from nearly every Western state and beyond described desolate scenes related to a proliferation of tent encampments in recent years.
By Shawn Hubler