In 2018, the Ninth Circuit ruled in the Martin case that municipalities can’t impose criminal penalties against homeless people for sitting, sleeping, or lying on public property if they have no available shelter.  Thus began the odyssey of Western States cities’ need to allow creation of homeless camps up and down the west coast.

In Bellingham a tent city appeared in front of city hall and ended up roaming the city from City Hall, to Civic Field, to a park on South Hill, to remnants on South Cornwall and D street.  Meanwhile the drug cities were growing around Wal Mart and other parts of the city.

Even when the homeless areas were cleared there were, from the beginning, at least some open beds in shelters for residents to use.  At times residents of these homeless sub-cities were going to shelters to shower and have a meal and then going back to the encampment to do their chemical of choice.

The clarification may just help city governments  move forward in a positive way.

The Courts definition of Involuntary Homelessness was clarified according to a National Review article Here.

“Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit judges agreed that “a person is not involuntarily homeless if they have declined a specific offer of available shelter or otherwise have access to such shelter or the means to obtain it.” 

The Martin Ruling referred to in the article in the National Review is  ROBERT MARTIN V. CITY OF BOISE, No. 15-35845 (9th Cir. 2019) ROBERT MARTIN V. CITY OF BOISE  

EXCERPTS below show the ruling before the clarification…(2018-2019)

“In Majority: Turning to the merits, the panel held that the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment precluded the enforcement of a statute prohibiting sleeping outside against homeless individuals with no access to alternative shelter. The panel held that, as long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.

In Minority “Judge M. Smith further stated that the panel’s holding has already begun wreaking havoc on local governments, residents, and businesses throughout the circuit. Judge M. Smith stated that the panel’s reasoning will soon prevent local governments from enforcing a host of other public health and safety laws, such as those prohibiting public defecation and urination, and that the panel’s opinion shackles the hands of public officials trying to redress the serious societal concern of homelessness.”


What do you think the Ninth Circuit was trying to do?  Improve the lives of the homelessness by knocking down health and welfare ordinances Circuit wide or just creating new law using the Eighth amendment in a new and different way.  Comments are welcome.  Please keep them educational.