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Oregon City's ban on homeless encampments raises concerns for Kansas City's homeless population

Oregon City's ban on homeless encampments raises concerns for Kansas City's homeless population
Posted at 6:37 AM, Apr 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-24 09:59:48-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a move sparking national debate, authorities in a city in Oregon have enacted a controversial ordinance banning homeless individuals from sleeping or camping in public spaces.

The ban on public encampments has ignited discussions about homelessness and public welfare across the country, even in Kansas City.

“It's non-humanistic to make a law where people cannot sleep outside," said Carol Cook, who has been sleeping in her car for two years.

Cook became homeless after being evicted from her apartment.

Due to being diagnosed with cancer, she said she has been unable to get back on her feet.

“It's incredibly hard. It's scary. You're constantly vigilant about what's around you," Cook said. "We were sleeping in a state park and guys showed up last night throwing rocks at my car."

But that could soon be changing in cities across the United States. This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments from the Grant Pass v. Johnson Case, an issue the Supreme Court is considering.

“If you're going to look at implementing making it illegal to camp outside, to sleep outside, you have to have some answers,” said Jaynell Assmann, founder of Care Beyond the Boulevard.

Assmann knows the need in the homeless community as she works weekly providing health needs at nearby camps around the Kansas City metro.

While the topic has become a center of attention in the highest court in the U.S., she said city officials need to focus on finding a solution.

“Now the cities need to put their money where their mouth is and provide some kind of resources. Not just say, 'You can't sleep out here,'" Assmann said. "Where are they going to go? You don't just magically have a house up here. You don't magically have income up here.”

The Supreme Court is considering whether the case violates the Eighth Amendment, protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Cook said she wants others to view life has been for her for the past two years.

“It's the shame. It's the shame, it's the stigma. It's really hard," Cook said. "It's how people look at you and they don't know where the person has been, you don't know what roads they've walked down. You know, it's a matter of people putting themselves in other people's shoes."

The Supreme Court is set to make a decision in June.