Missoula, along with other small and large cities across the West, is anxiously awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could help define how local jurisdictions are able to enforce rules against the growing number of homeless camps.

The justices heard oral arguments last week in the case centering around Grants Pass, Oregon's rules, and a lower court ruling that other cities complain hindering their abilities to deal with "urban camping".

However the court rules, Missoula Mayor Andrea Davis sees a positive outcome, helping to "clarify" how local leaders can tackle the problem, and also how those who are "houseless" can manage their circumstances.

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The first high court look at homeless regulations in decades

The case, City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson, has been the focal point for the debate over what powers local jurisdictions have to enforce urban camping rules. The initial suit prompted Missoula, and many other cities, to scale back efforts to control where people struggling with "houselessness" can stay.

The Supreme Court expressed some divided opinions during last week's hearing.

RELATED: Missoula Leaders Ask Faith Community to Help with Homeless Issue

Missoula watching for the outcome

Missoula Mayor Andrea Davis says the case illustrates the complications.

"I would say that you know the City of Missoula is not interested in criminalizing homelessness. It is not what we do today, regardless of whether we have some procedures in place to make sure that we do have the ability to keep public health and safety at the forefront," Davis told me last week.

"We have had, you know, decades of system failure on so many levels at the federal, state, and maybe even local level too, where we have where we have had this compounded issue."

Davis sees positives

Regardless of how the court rules, Davis believes the case has generated much-needed attention to the issue.

"I'm hoping finally, you know, give the juice that's what's needed at all levels of government, and the private sector to really start thinking through how we're going to tackle this issue."

And she feels that will help the homeless as well.

"It's confusion for people in the community on either side trying to understand what are the city's obligations or commitments or inabilities, for example, to manage this kind of situation. And so clarity is what's necessary."

10 Montana Cities Ranked by How Diverse They Are

Montana may not be known for its diversity but it is interesting to see the diversity within the state. WalletHub did a 2024 study of diversity in U.S. cities and we've pulled out the Montana cities below. Not all variables from the study are included, but you can get an idea of how diverse each city is.

Gallery Credit: Ashley

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