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The little-noticed court decision that changed homelessness in America

Five years ago, a federal court issued a crucial ruling. People experiencing homelessness, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said, can’t be punished for sleeping outside on public property if there are no adequate alternatives available.

The 2018 decision in Martin v. Boise did not create the homelessness crisis, which researchers attribute primarily to the lack of affordable housing. The number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness — meaning those sleeping on the streets, in parks, in abandoned buildings or train stations, or anywhere not meant for humans to live — was rising before the decision.


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