Senators Saval, Hughes, Cappelletti and Kearney Announce Intention to Introduce Homelessness Prevention Act

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania July 2, 2024 – Today State Senators Nikil Saval (D–Philadelphia County), Vincent Hughes (D–Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties) Amanda Cappelletti (D – Delaware and Montgomery Counties) and Tim Kearney (D–Delaware County) announced his intention to introduce legislation preventing the criminalization of homelessness in Pennsylvania.

Their announcement follows Friday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court Grants Pass v. Johnson rulingwhich allows local authorities across the country to arrest and fine people for sleeping outdoors when they have nowhere else to go.

“Our Commonwealth, like much of our country, is facing an unprecedented housing crisis, and this Supreme Court decision threatens to exacerbate it, putting communities in every county at risk,” he said. Senator Savalwho serves as the Democratic chairman of the Senate Committee on Urban Affairs and Housing and chairman of the Philadelphia Senate Delegation. “We must fight against the criminalization of our neighbors who cannot afford homes. We must fight for bold, effective policy responses that move us from treating homes as mere assets to recognizing them as essential goods. And we must fight to ensure that our public spaces are inclusive and accessible to all.”

Throughout the country, wage stagnation and keen rise in housing costs have caused historic levels of housing insecurity. Almost a quarter of US homeowners AND half of US renters are burdened with costswhich makes the disaster one step beyond an ordinary accident.

“The stunning lack of empathy and compassion shown by most Supreme Court justices is cruel and extraordinary,” he said. Senator Cappellettiwho serves as the Democratic chairman of the Senate State Government Committee. “Because of this ruling, anyone who may not be able to afford housing may be subject to the criminal justice system. This ruling is unacceptable. Pennsylvanians deserve safe, healthy, affordable homes. There’s no question about that — but when that’s not the reality, we cannot resort to criminalizing those who are already suffering.”

The proposed law would clarify that homelessness cannot be criminalized in Pennsylvania. This law would seek to guarantee the right to the outdoors, encourage inclusive management of public spaces, and support local governments in creating enough affordable, low-barrier housing to accommodate people experiencing homelessness.

Across the country, local laws criminalizing homelessness have been introduced or passed not only in Grants Pass, Oregon, but also in California, Utah, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida—both red and blue states where local governments have abdicated their responsibility to meet the needs of their people. The Grants Pass decision paves the way for these laws to spread.

“It is devastating to see the Supreme Court make a decision that hits the most vulnerable among us,” he said. Senator Kearneywho serves as the Democratic chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee and chairman of the Southeast Senate Delegation. “We cannot stand by while people who are already suffering are punished for their circumstances. This legislation is about compassion and creating real options for stable homes for people experiencing housing instability while also standing up to unjust policies.”

The full co-sponsorship memo for the proposed legislation is available Here.

Pennsylvania House of Representatives officials announced their plans to introduce accompanying legislation. Co-sponsors of the legislation include Reps. Ismail Smith-Wade-El (D–Lancaster County), Greg Scott (D–Montgomery County), Lindsay Powell (D–Allegheny County), Napoleon Nelson (D–Montgomery County), Rick Krajewski (D–Philadelphia County), Chris Rabb (D–Philadelphia County), Emily Kinkead (D–Allegheny County), Elizabeth Fiedler (D–Philadelphia County), Heather Boyd (D–Delaware County), Melissa Cerrato (D–Montgomery County) and Tarik Khan (D–Philadelphia County).

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