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Nebraska's attorney general files amicus brief requesting Supreme Court review ruling on homeless encampments

Posted at 6:20 PM, Sep 28, 2023

LINCOLN, Neb (KMTV) — In major cities across the country the number of unhoused individuals is growing rapidly.

The city of Omaha has seen its numbers grow from a few dozen to over 200 in recent years, creating challenging situations for city officials and law enforcement.

“It’s a growing trend nationally. I think all metropolitan areas and even rural areas are seeing an increase in homelessness. Inflation no doubt hit our lower and moderate-income families and individuals harder than anybody else,” said Jason Feldhaus, the Executive Director of the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless.

Courts across the country have differed in how they let cities tackle the encampments in public spaces that come with an increase in individuals experiencing homelessness.

One recent ruling in the 9th circuit has caught the attention of Nebraska’s Attorney General.

“A lot of these public encampments that we see in places like San Francisco or Los Angeles, these places that really are dangerous for the homeless individuals who live there and also unsafe for the community. Cities want to solve these problems and this 9th circuit decision is handcuffing them,” said Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers.

The 9th Circuit Court ruled that anti-camping, anti-sleeping and park exclusion ordinances often used to control unhoused populations are a violation of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishments.

While the 9th Circuit doesn’t cover Nebraska Hilgers is concerned the changes could influence the 8th Circuit which has jurisdiction over Nebraska.

“We think if that kind of rule could spread into the 8th circuit that we are in, we could see cities like Omaha or Lincoln or others be handcuffed and paralyzed just like San Francisco or just like Seattle or Portland from being able to address their problems,” said Hilgers.

Hilgers has joined a coalition of 20 states in an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to review the 9th Circuit's decision.

He said his coalition of 20 Republican Attorney Generals aren’t the only ones filing briefs, California Governor Gavin Newsom as well as leaders from cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles have also filed their own briefs with the court.

“Let’s go back to where we were. Let’s give cities, cities and states have the traditional authority to protect the health and safety of their communities. Let's go back to giving them the tools to be able to solve these problems.

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