Amidst a slew of new homelessness policy, the unhoused organize to make an impact. Homelessness has long been recognized as a staggering social crisis in the Bay Area, but 2018 was the year it became a full-blown political and legal crisis. In Oakland—the epicenter of the East Bay’s shelter crisis—homelessness was the top issue debated during the mayoral and city council races, and the city’s leaders increasingly recognize the need to prioritize services and shelter for the unhoused.
On September 4, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that cities may not punish homeless people for sleeping outside in public spaces if they do not have access to shelter elsewhere. The case—Martin v. Boise—started way back in 2009, when six current and formerly homeless residents of Boise, Idaho sued the city for giving citations to people who were sleeping outside. The lawsuit rested on the notion that these citations violated the Eighth Amendment rights of Boise’s homeless residents, amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.