Oregon cities to update their public camping restrictions by July 1
Protest signs condemning a measure in Portland City Council that would ban homeless camps during the daytime in most public places are lined up next to one of the doors of City Hall in Portland, Ore. on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 (AP Photo/Claire Rush)
(AP) — City Council members in Portland were considering on Wednesday whether to ban homeless camping during daytime hours in most public places, a move that aims to bring the city into compliance with a new state law and appease the growing number of residents frustrated by a deepening years-long homelessness crisis.
Portland is among progressive West Coast cities moving to adopt stricter rules on camping while grappling with intertwined homelessness, housing, mental health and addiction crises. In Portland, homelessness jumped more than 30% between 2019 and 2022, according to federal data.
Homeless people would have to dismantle their camp every morning and remove their belongings and any litter during the day. People who break the rules would receive a warning for the first two violations. After three violations, people could be fined up to $100 or be sent to jail for up to 30 days. The measure would prohibit camping between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. in city parks and near schools, day cares and construction sites and on some sidewalk areas.
But while there appears to be an increasing appetite for camping regulations in Oregon’s largest city, advocates said the new rules would further burden homeless people and strain nonprofits already working at capacity.
Mayor Ted Wheeler said at Wednesday’s City Council meeting that his goal is to get enough shelter and housing to eliminate unsanctioned camping in Portland. The City Council voted in November to create at least six large, designated campsites where homeless people will be allowed to camp and gradually ban street camping altogether once the sites are operational.
“There are currently hundreds of unsanctioned, sometimes dangerous and often squalid homeless camps across all 146 square miles of the city of Portland. These homeless camps ... represent nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe,” Wheeler said.
Before testimony got under way, dozens of protesters rallied with megaphones outside City Hall to voice their opposition. At times, advocates inside the City Council chambers cheered those speaking against the measure and jeered people supporting it, including Wheeler, prompting him to threaten to move the meeting online if decorum was not respected.
Business and property owners were among those who testified in support of the ordinance, saying some customers and employees don’t feel safe shopping or going to work because of encampments. Council members are expected to vote next week, according to Wheeler’s office.