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10 Must-See Posts from the Johnson v. Grants Pass Rally

From stirring speeches to unforgettable images, these moments show what we can accomplish together as a movement to end homelessness.
  |  April 26, 2024

On April 22 in front of the Supreme Court, voices rose in a display of solidarity and hope during a rally organized by the National Homeless Law Center.

Inside, justices heard oral arguments in the Johnson v. Grants Pass case, which will determine if it’s cruel and unusual punishment to arrest and fine individuals for sleeping in public spaces. Outside, supporters gathered to show what’s at stake — to demand the changes needed to make homelessness rare and brief. 

Join us as we revisit these moments, which remind us why our fight to solve homelessness is both necessary and achievable.

1. The image that says it all

Captured in front of the Supreme Court, this powerful image from Youth Collaboratory shows a massive crowd gathered as oral arguments began. In the sea of supporters are signs with messages demanding transformative housing policies instead of punitive measures.

2. A moving speech on what’s at stake

Dr. Wendy B. Mahoney, the Interim President and CEO of National Network to End Domestic Violence, addressed the gathered crowd with a poignant reminder of the stakes involved, especially for domestic and sexual violence survivors. 

“Many survivors are forced to flee their homes to escape dangerous and life-threatening violence. Lack of safe, affordable housing options leave many survivors without a choice but to survive outside. […] We need to shift from arresting, fining, and ticketing to policies that help end abuse and homelessness.”

3. A display of solidarity and resistance

As part of a demonstration, rally participants wrapped themselves in blankets and laid in front of the Supreme Court steps. This visual protest, captured by the Corporation for Supportive Housing, highlighted the absurdity and cruelty of laws that could penalize individuals just for using blankets or pillows while sleeping outdoors. 

4. A powerful plea for safe housing

“Our neighbors without homes need welcoming communities that see and honor their full humanity. Solutions to homelessness are possible when we welcome our neighbors inside.” said Amanda Andere, CEO of Funders Together to End Homelessness at the rally.

5. Advocating for systemic change

Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, speaks outside the Supreme Court to advocate for the rights of unhoused people.

6. A call for leadership in housing policy

“One thing that I want the public to know is that if we want to end homelessness, we need to vote for leaders who will support safe and affordable housing in their community,” said Ann Oliva, Chief Executive Officer of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

7. A chorus for change

Funders for Housing and Opportunity shared a rousing video capturing voices chanting in unison, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people ‘cuz the power of the people don’t stop!”

8. Highlighting the safety net shortcomings

“People do not choose to be homeless, they are forced into homelessness by a safety net riddled with holes,” said Donald Whitehead, Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, in a speech that captured the urgency of reforming a flawed system.

9. A call for compassion

Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, an American Protestant minister, social activist, professor took to X (formerly Twitter) to expand on his speech at the rally, where he said: “People are unhoused because of hard times. Poverty and homelessness are not a choice. People need help. Justice is investing in affordable housing.”

10. Handmade hope

Memorial Blanket Project brought over 100 handmade blankets to the rally and afterward distributed them to people experiencing homelessness “Pillows, cardboard or blankets should not serve as proof of criminality,” said Blanket Project organizer Pat LaMarche in a statement. “But if the court finds in favor of Grants Pass, these beautiful handmade gifts will be just that. We will display our blankets prominently to remind the court that a handmade blanket is a sign of love.”

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