Can Homeless People Be Fined For Sleeping Outside In Washington State?

Homelessness is a complex issue that affects communities across the United States, and Washington State is no exception. 

One common question that arises when discussing homelessness is whether or not homeless individuals can be fined for sleeping outside.

AP News recently published an article that Grants Pass, Oregon is taking the matter to the US Supreme Court in the coming months but what does the law say in Washington State?

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Oregon Is Taking The Issue To The Supreme Court Over Fining Homeless

In Washington State, there are no statewide laws explicitly prohibiting homeless individuals from sleeping outside. However, many cities and municipalities have implemented ordinances that restrict where people can sleep or camp in public spaces.

These ordinances often target behaviors such as loitering, panhandling, and camping in specific areas.

While these laws are intended to address concerns about public safety and sanitation, they can inadvertently criminalize homelessness by penalizing individuals for engaging in necessary activities like sleeping.

One notable case that sparked controversy surrounding homelessness laws in Washington State was the 2018 Martin v. City of Boise decision.

In this case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it is unconstitutional to criminally punish homeless individuals for sleeping outside when they have no access to shelter.

This decision has had implications for cities across the country, including those in Washington State, prompting many to reevaluate their approach to addressing homelessness.

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Despite legal protections like the Martin v. City of Boise decision, homeless individuals in Washington state still face challenges when it comes to finding safe places to sleep.

The ruling did say the city couldn't fine the homeless for sleeping outside if the city doesn't have enough shelter beds available.  It did not necessarily mean a city cannot enforce any restrictions on camping on public property.

Right now it's not illegal for homeless to sleep outside but we will be watching Oregon to see what the ruling is there because it could change the law here in Washington State in the future.

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