Published On: April 15, 20243.9 min read780 words

On Monday, April 22, 2024, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hear oral arguments on the case of Gloria Johnson, v. the city of Grants Pass, Oregon, a landmark case that will significantly impact the rights people have when experiencing homelessness. This case will decide if a local government can arrest or fine people for sleeping outside if there is no adequate shelter available.

The Case

The initial filing of this case in 2018 took place following the arrest or ticketing of individuals in a homeless encampment in Grants Pass, Oregon, for activities like sleeping outdoors and using blankets. A class action lawsuit was subsequently filed on behalf of those in the encampment, arguing that arresting individuals for camping without access to adequate shelter constituted cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment. This case has moved up the courts, with the Supreme Court providing the ultimate decision.

The Ruling

The Supreme Court will issue a ruling by the end of June.

  • If SCOTUS rules in favor of Gloria Johson, jurisdictions will no longer be able to fine or arrest people camping on public property with nowhere else to go, something that is currently happening all across the country.
  • If SCOTUS rules in favor of Grants Pass, Oregon, it will allow jurisdictions to criminalize people camping on public property. Something we know only makes it more difficult for people to access stable housing.

Youth Homelessness and NN4Y Position

Every year, 4.2 million youth and young adults experience homelessness on their own, of which 700,000 are youth ages 13 to 17 and 3.5 million are young adults ages 18 to 25 (Chapin Hall, Missed Opportunities). The National Network for Youth signed onto an amicus brief with Juvenile Law Center, Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc., and 223 Experts on Unhoused Youth, which argues the implications this case will have on youth experiencing homelessness.

“[We] are deeply invested in promoting laws, policies, and practices that are consistent with children’s unique developmental characteristics and human dignity. [We] submit this brief because the unconstitutional criminalization of homelessness is uniquely harmful for youth, particularly marginalized youth who are disproportionately impacted by homelessness. Further proliferation of laws and regulations that criminalize homelessness creates barriers to safe and stable housing, which negatively impact youth, families, and communities.”

In addition to the far-reaching effects on all of those experiencing homelessness, young people experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of this ruling. They face unique challenges in accessing the essential systems, services, and resources necessary to their development as adolescents and transition into adulthood. Moreover, youth often encounter specific barriers to finding adequate shelters, such as the scarcity of youth shelter beds (only 3% of all federally funded beds), narrow eligibility requirements, and prioritization for populations other than youth, as well as limited access to age-appropriate services.

Alternatives to Addressing Youth Homelessness

There are existing federal programs that directly address the causes and effects of youth and young adult homelessness. The following information is part of the FY25 policy recommendations developed by NN4Y’s National Youth Advisory Council, comprised of young people who have experienced multiple forms of homelessness throughout the US, and our 300+ youth service provider and affiliate network.

The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) Programs
These programs include short- and long-term housing options, street outreach, and supportive services. RHYA programs are more cost-effective than other systems (child welfare, policing, and court systems) that youth experiencing homelessness might encounter while homeless. RHYA programs have been chronically underfunded, with only 25% of qualified applicants receiving funding.

The McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Program
This is the only federal education program that removes barriers to school enrollment, attendance, and success caused by homelessness. This funding is used for outreach and identification, enrollment assistance, transportation, school records transfer, immunization referrals, tutoring, counseling, school supplies, professional development for educators and community organizations, and referrals for community services.

Youth Homeless Demonstration Program (YHDP)
This funding is for local Continuum of Care (CoC) to reduce the number of youth experiencing homelessness, including unaccompanied, pregnant, and parenting youth. YHDP projects work in partnership with community stakeholders and require communities to convene Youth Action Boards. Notably, they are one of the very few programs HUD has that explicitly addresses youth homelessness.

Johnson v. Grants Pass will be a seminal court case, but it is not the sole federal action. There are many different ways we can prevent and end homelessness, including youth homelessness. To learn more about current legislation that NN4Y currently promotes that will prevent and end youth homelessness, visit our Take Action Center at

For more information on Johnson v. Grants Pass, visit