NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The Justice Department has made a major policy decision on homelessness in communities. The department determined it “unconstitutional” to criminalize people sleeping in public places when shelters aren’t available.
This was specific to a case in Boise, Idaho, but it has started a conversation around the country. The Justice Department can’t make the law, but suggested that arresting people for sleeping in public places was against the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
In Northampton, you can find many homeless people on Main Street. Some told 22News that they don’t trust sleeping in a shelter, but they also don’t like sleeping in public places.
“If the beds are full, the beds are full- so you have to be there and they kick you out in the morning, but at least you can stay warm in the night. But you got to protect all your belongings,” said Mike Richardson, who has been homeless in Northampton for the last two years.
Richardson said that he has heard many stories of people stealing each other’s belongings in the shelters, so he sleeps in the woods at night.