Portland, OR

Portland City Council Implements New Ordinance Restricting Daytime Camping in Public Places

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Portland City Council Implements New Ordinance Restricting Daytime Camping in Public PlacesPhoto byNEOMonUnsplash

In a move to address the long-standing homelessness crisis, the Portland City Council has passed an ordinance prohibiting daytime camping in most public places. The council voted 3-1 in favor of the measure, which aims to balance the concerns of business and property owners with the rights and needs of the homeless population. This blog post delves into the details of the new ordinance, its implications, and the ongoing efforts to tackle homelessness in Portland.

The Ordinance in Detail:
Under the new ordinance, individuals are allowed to camp in nonrestricted areas from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. However, during the daytime hours, they are required to dismantle their campsites until the permitted overnight hours begin again. Additionally, the ordinance bans camping near schools, parks, busy streets, and other specified locations.

Reasons Behind the Ordinance:
Business and property owners strongly supported the new ordinance, citing the negative impact of campsites on their businesses and safety concerns. On the other hand, advocates for homeless people expressed concerns that the measure would further burden them and exacerbate mental and physical distress. The ordinance represents an attempt to strike a balance between these competing interests.

Context and Legal Considerations:
It's worth noting that Portland already prohibits camping on city property at all hours. However, this existing measure has rarely been enforced and could potentially violate a state law set to take effect on July 1. The new ordinance aligns with a 2018 federal court ruling that prevents local governments from arresting people for sleeping outside when adequate shelter is unavailable but allows for reasonable limits on the setting up of campsites.

Efforts to Address Homelessness:
In conjunction with the camping restrictions, Portland has approved a plan to establish six authorized encampment sites. The goal of these sites is to provide alternative options for homeless individuals, with the ultimate aim of banning camping in public places. Mayor Ted Wheeler, who introduced the measure, expressed gratitude to council members for their support and emphasized the importance of increasing shelter availability and services as part of a broader revitalization strategy for the city.

Controversies and Dissenting Voices:
While the majority of council members backed the ordinance, Commissioner Carmen Rubio voted against it. Rubio argued that the measure should not have been approved until more shelter sites are built, capacity is expanded at existing service locations, and police are properly trained to enforce the new rules in a dignified manner. The concerns raised highlight the need for comprehensive solutions to homelessness beyond camping restrictions.

Enforcement and Penalties:
The ordinance will be implemented in phases, with enforcement potentially beginning in late July. Violators will receive two warnings initially, followed by penalties that could include fines of up to $100 or even 30 days in jail. However, Mayor Wheeler emphasized that the focus would be on alternative sentences that connect individuals with resources and support.

The passage of the ordinance prohibiting daytime camping in most public places marks an important step by the Portland City Council to address the homelessness crisis. While the measure aims to strike a balance between the interests of business owners and homeless individuals, it has not been without controversy. Ongoing efforts to increase shelter availability, establish authorized encampment sites, and provide comprehensive support services will be crucial in addressing the root causes of homelessness and creating a revitalized Portland for all its residents.

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