The Arc Joins Law Enforcement Associations, Faith-Based Organizations, Medical Professionals, Legal Experts, Academic Leaders, Advocates, and Members of Congress in an Amicus Brief Urging an End to the Criminalization of Homelessness

Washington, DC — In a historic move to protect the rights of people with disabilities experiencing homelessness, The Arc of the United States has joined a powerful coalition of advocates in submitting an amicus brief for the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case Johnson v. Grants Pass. This case could end the cruel and unconstitutional criminalization of homelessness nationwide, a crisis that disproportionately impacts the disability community.

Johnson v. Grants Pass is the most important case regarding homelessness in the past 40 years. It will address the critical issue of whether laws punishing homeless individuals for sleeping outdoors with basic protections such as a pillow or blanket—when no safe and accessible shelter options are available—are violations of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects against excessive bail, fines, and cruel and unusual punishment.

As noted in the amicus brief, the members of Grants Pass’ homeless community do not choose to be homeless. Instead, in a city with no public shelters, they have no alternative but to sleep in parks or on the street. The Ordinances do not deter disabled homeless people from sleeping in public places because they have no alternative. They do not rehabilitate homeless people from their involuntary conduct but make it even less likely that they will be able to obtain adequate housing.

People with disabilities face daunting barriers to accessible, affordable housing. Less than 5% of housing is accessible for moderate mobility needs, and under 1% is accessible for wheelchair users. Widespread discrimination compounds the problem. Housing costs are also prohibitive for many disabled people who rely on public assistance for basic costs of living. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the U.S. exceeds the maximum monthly Supplemental Security Income a person can receive. With limited income and a lack of affordable options, people with disabilities are at heightened risk of homelessness and institutionalization.

“Criminalizing homelessness exacerbates the systemic injustices impacting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Shira Wakschlag, The Arc’s Senior Director of Legal Advocacy & General Counsel. “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) face a serious lack of safe, affordable, accessible, and integrated housing and experience significant housing-related discrimination. People with IDD are also among the nation’s poorest citizens due to inadequate benefits and services, putting many at risk of unnecessary institutionalization or homelessness. Punishing them for having no choice but to sleep outdoors is a moral failing that perpetuates discrimination, poverty, and segregation. It also does nothing to provide the supports and services homeless people with disabilities need to end the cycle of poverty.”

The Arc joins over 20 disability rights organizations and scholars in an amicus brief that demands justice for the rights of homeless individuals across the U.S. They are joined by the National Homelessness Law Center (NHLC) and a broad array of hundreds of organizations and public leaders who have submitted a total of 39 amicus briefs on behalf of the plaintiffs.

“This case challenges us to face the reality that using things like jails and fines do nothing to solve homelessness and actually make homelessness worse,” said Jesse Rabinowitz, campaign and communications director for NHLC. “Punishing our neighbors who have no choice but to sleep outside pushes them further into poverty and makes it harder to secure work and housing. The overwhelming support from a diverse array of organizations that we see in these amicus briefs underscores the need for our elected officials at every level of government to solve homelessness with housing and support, not make homelessness worse by using jail cells and bulldozers.”

Currently, more than 600,000 people in the U.S. experience homelessness on any given night, with nearly half—250,000—sleeping outside. Data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shows a rise in homelessness for both sheltered and unsheltered individuals in nearly every state. The primary cause of the record levels of homelessness we see today is the unaffordable housing market, according to research from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.


About The Arc of the United States: The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy, and other diagnoses. Founded in 1950 by parents who believed their children with IDD deserved more, The Arc is now a network of nearly 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with IDD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes. Through the decades, The Arc has been at the forefront of advances in disability rights and supports. There are over 7 million people with IDD in the United States, which encompasses over 100 different diagnoses. Visit or follow us @TheArcUS to learn more. Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

About the National Homelessness Law Center: The National Homelessness Law Center (NHLC) is at the forefront of the fight against homelessness in America. Our mission is to fearlessly advance federal, state, and local policies to prevent and end homelessness while fiercely defending the rights of all unhoused persons. We work to shape and advance policies at the federal, state, and local levels aimed at preventing and ultimately ending homelessness. By fostering partnerships, influencing policy, and mobilizing communities, the NHLC is dedicated to transforming how society addresses homelessness, striving for a future where everyone has a place to call home. Learn more at

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