Statement from WhyHunger on the Supreme Court Decision to Criminalize Homelessness

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Statement from WhyHunger on the Supreme Court Decision to Criminalize Homelessness

Criminalizing poverty and homelessness is a violation of our basic human rights and an ineffective strategy that further penalizes an already marginalized community.”

NEW YORK (June 28, 2024) – Jenique Jones, executive director of WhyHunger – a non-profit working to end world hunger and the injustices that cause it – issued the following statement on the Supreme Court of the United States ruling to uphold measures that criminalize homelessness and prohibit unhoused individuals from seeking refuge in public areas in Johnson vs. Grants Pass:

“Despite the U.S. facing the highest rate of homelessness ever recorded, with about 653,100 individuals without housing in a single night, SCOTUS has decided to punish the country’s most vulnerable. This decision ignores the root causes of homelessness and instead perpetuates the systemic issues at the heart of the crisis. Rising housing costs, inadequate healthcare, an unjust food system and insufficient support services are the true reasons for unprecedented homeless rates. Rather than addressing these issues head-on, America is once again sweeping our broken systems, and those who are suffering most, under the rug. 

WhyHunger is baffled by the short-sightedness of this ruling. Criminalizing poverty and homelessness is a violation of our basic human rights and an ineffective strategy that further penalizes an already marginalized community. This decision distracts from efforts to address homelessness at its roots through comprehensive support, accessible healthcare, affordable food and housing, quality education and job opportunities. It is important to consider the snowball effect this decision can have. Once someone is criminalized, they could lose access to critical safety net programs, like SNAP or government-funded housing, with long-lasting impacts on their life.

Moreover, today’s ruling contributes to the growth of the prison industrial complex, which disproportionately impacts poor and BIPOC communities. It reinforces systemic discrimination and oppression by forcing vulnerable populations into the criminal justice system rather than addressing the underlying causes of their circumstances. The criminalization of homelessness perpetuates a narrative that holds individuals accountable for the systemic failures in housing and social services.

We vehemently oppose this decision and remain committed to advocating for initiatives that provide structural solutions to issues faced by everyday Americans. Until we stop blaming individuals for systemic failures, the status quo of homelessness, poverty and hunger in America will not shift. Our country was founded on democracy for all, not a select few. 

WhyHunger calls on all those who stand for justice to advocate for policies that uplift rather than oppress, creating a society where no individual is penalized for their circumstances and meeting your most basic human needs is not a crime. It is time for us to rally and demand a shift in how our nation supports homeless individuals. Compassion must guide our actions — because everyone deserves the dignity of shelter, food and opportunity. What could be more American than that? 

We collectively hold the power to build a society where justice and equality prevail, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to have their basic needs met daily. The first step in achieving this vision is to confront injustice wherever it exists and to demand equality, equity, and accountability from our government and institutions.”

About WhyHunger

Founded in 1975 by the late Harry Chapin and radio DJ Bill Ayres, WhyHunger funds and supports community solutions to protect the human right to food. In nearly five decades of innovation and evolution, our programs and our grassroots partners in 24 countries have expanded agricultural practices that are better for the planet, helped communities address the root causes of hunger, and ensured access to nutritious food for millions of people. As a grassroots support organization, we stand behind the leadership of the people most impacted by hunger and injustice. We prioritize providing resources to support the rights of communities who have been historically excluded from defining and controlling their food systems. We advocate for workers’ rights and champion agroecological food production that unites science and sustainability with Indigenous knowledge and wisdom. Together we can build socially and economically just food systems that nourish all people and the environment. Learn more at whyhunger.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram.

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