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To sweep homeless camps, California cities say they offer shelter. What that really means is up for

In summary Police can’t force homeless people from encampments unless the city in question has “adequate shelter” Cities in the West can’t legally clear encampments unless they can provide adequate alternative shelter to the camp residents.

But what, precisely, constitutes “adequate shelter?”

The definition is at the heart of debates raging across California in the five years since a federal appeals court ruled that it’s cruel and unusual punishment to evict homeless people from public spaces when they have no other options. The 2018 decision on that Boise, Idaho case by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, binding on states in the West, did not require cities to set up enough shelter beds for their entire homeless population, but said it would be unconstitutional to criminally penalize people camping in public when they lack “access to adequate temporary shelter.”

An emergency non-congregate housing site in Chico on Sept. 6, 2023. Photo by Fred Greaves for CalMatters

byJeanne KuangSeptember 12, 2023Updated September 13, 2023


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