Episcopal Community Services Condemns the Grants Pass Decision

Today the Supreme Court issued a ruling that will have lasting impacts on our country’s homelessness crisis. The decision in the case of Johnson v. Grants Pass has effectively legitimized the criminalization of homelessness, thus punishing people for experiencing the most extreme levels of poverty. Episcopal Community Services (ECS) has advocated against this approach from the start; signing on to an amicus brief in opposition to this unjust and cruel policy. As both the Executive Director of ECS, and a human being, I am appalled and deeply disheartened by this decision.

Let me be clear, homelessness is not a choice. The causes of homelessness are complex and often rooted in insurmountable hardship due to systemic racism, exorbitant cost of housing, and economic inequality. Homelessness is the most extreme manifestation of poverty in American society; the experience of being unhoused is traumatic enough without being punished and criminalized with fines or incarceration for simply having nowhere safe to sleep. Furthermore, people experiencing homelessness endure significant negative impacts on their health and wellbeing. Despite knowing this, our society continues to demonize and stigmatize those we should be treating with compassionate care.  

This is unacceptable.

Our fundamental approach to service is centered around proven strategies that address homelessness holistically by providing long-term affordable housing options, paired with the wraparound supportive services which empower our participants with the resources and tools they need to end their homelessness, meet their goals, and transform their lives. 

Today’s decision undoubtedly marks a dark moment in our nation’s history, but we cannot let adversity set us back. ECS will continue to staunchly advocate for our unhoused neighbors and prioritize approaches which center humanity, dignity, and empathy.

In solidarity,

Beth Stokes