CEO of Pope Francis Center ‘disappointed’ by Supreme Court ruling on outdoor sleeping bans

The ruling overturns a decision from a California-based appeals court that found the bans could be considered “cruel and unusual punishment” when shelter space is lacking.

A homeless person sleeps on the sidewalk with a dog at his side.

A homeless person sleeps on the sidewalk with a dog at his side.

Late last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cities can ban homeless people from sleeping outside in public places.

The decision overturns a ruling from a California-based appeals court that found outdoor sleeping bans could be considered “cruel and unusual punishment” when shelter space is lacking.

Father Tim McCabe, president and CEO of the Pope Francis Center — a nonprofit dedicated to helping the homeless population in Detroit — joined The Metro this week to talk about the Supreme Court ruling, the root problems of homelessness and what solutions could be put in place.  

He said he was disappointed by the Supreme Court decision because it criminalizes homeless people for doing basic human functions.

“So you impose a $200-$300 fine on a person or, or arrest them for sleeping in public. They now have a criminal record on top of a fine on top of, you know, while they’re already down and dealing with some pretty hard situations,” McCabe said. “So it’s disappointing, it’s not a solution by any means. It’s, you know, at best, it’s going to push people out of one community into another community.”

McCabe says the ruling could also exacerbate homelessness in the U.S and Detroit, rather than address the trauma faced by homeless individuals and issues around limited access to affordable housing options.

“Having a trauma-informed care approach is the most successful model and actually helping people regain some of their agency and actually getting in housing and being successful, successfully housed,” McCabe said. “We need to address the root issues that they’re dealing with, you know, that’s really presenting itself as mental illness as addiction in a lot of cases.”

After conducting extensive research on the root causes of homelessness across the country, the Pope Francis Center recently opened its new Bridge Housing Campus in Detroit to provide people with shelter and resources to get off the streets. McCabe joined the show a couple weeks ago to talk about the new campus and how the organization aims to address homelessness in the city.

McCabe said the wraparound services at the campus are “psychiatry, social work, addiction specialists, housing specialists, you know, group therapy, along with funds, you know, stuff like art therapy and different activities [to] kind of build community.”

When The Metro co-host Tia Graham asked McCabe if he believes there’s a positive side to the Supreme Court ruling, he said he didn’t see any positives.

“You know, I mean, it’s to what end, you know, you criminalize them, you move them out of a public area, to where?” McCabe sAID. “If there isn’t any housing, if there’s no shelter beds available, then what happens? You know, you just have pushed them out of an area, you’ve given them a fine, you’ve given them a criminal record. And now their problems are compounded.”

Listen to the full interview with McCabe below, starting at the 14:30 mark.

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