SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Bay Area homeless advocates are claiming victory after the U. S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that allows homeless people to sleep on public sidewalks or city parks if there is no other shelter for them.

“It’s a small victory,” said Pastor Scott Wagers, who ministers to the homeless in San Jose.

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He said the court made the right decision to let stand a lower court ruling that allows people to sleep on public sidewalks or parks if there is no other shelter available.

“I think it points to the fact that when it comes to homeless people, moving them around and  not allowing them to stay anywhere, literally having no where to go.  It’s unethical,” Pastor Wagers said.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that prosecuting people for sleeping on sidewalks or parks is a
violation of  their 8th Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment.

“It must be scary, you know? Getting their house tore up, all their stuff torn down,” said 63-year-old Benny, who has lived on San Jose streets for 11 years.

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He said several large encampments were recently swept from near the side of Union Pacific train tracks. But the camps only moved a few feet onto city sidewalks on North San Pedro and Bassett Streets.

“From one spot to another spot.  What do you call that? It makes it hard on them,” Benny said.

Pastor Wagers hopes the court ruling will stop homeless camp sweeps on city property.

“These sweeps are a total waste of time. How many millions have we spent on sweeping people? But they’ve
not gotten into housing,” said Wagers.

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San Jose’s housing department put out a statement agreeing with the court’s decision, saying, “The solution to homelessness is more housing that is affordable to low and moderate income households.”