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US Supreme Court declines to review Idaho homeless ban

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will not review an appellate decision that makes it harder for cities to keep homeless people from sleeping on the streets.

The justices on Monday did not comment as they left in place a ruling that struck down a Boise, Idaho, ordinance. The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals applies across several Western states where cities are struggling with homelessness brought on by rising housing costs and income inequality. Many have similar restrictions that aim to keep homeless people from sleeping on their streets.

The appeals court held that Boise could not make it a crime for homeless people to sleep on the streets when no alternative shelter is available. The decision the justices refused to review found that the Boise ordinance violated the constitutional ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The Las Vegas City Council on Nov. 6 passed a controversial ordinance that will ban people from camping and sleeping in public areas downtown and in residential areas if there are beds free at established homeless shelters.

Under the new ordinance, which will be enforced starting on Feb. 1, violators could be charged with a misdemeanor crime, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

The Las Vegas camping ban was crafted specifically to meet the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision last year that stuck down the Boise ordinance because the city did not make enough shelter beds available, which the court found to violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Las Vegas police will enforce the new ban only when there are beds available among the roughly 2,000 beds available between city and nonprofit social services on any given night in Southern Nevada. The city also is looking to add to the total number of shelter beds, though no plans have yet been announced.

Review-Journal staff writers Shea Johnson and Briana Erickson contributed to this report.

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