Judge’s ruling advances anti-camping lawsuit

campingbanA district judge has given the green light to a group of people experiencing homelessness to go forward with their class-action lawsuit against the city of Portland’s camping ordinance.

In a decision reached Friday, District Judge Ann Aiken ruled against the city in its effort to dismiss the grounds for the lawsuit, concluding, in laymen’s terms, that the suit  – which seeks to declare the city’s no camping ordinance unconstitutional – has the muster to go forward.

The group of four homeless individuals say that the city’s enforcement of no camping and temporary structures ordinances “criminalize the status of being homeless, singles out the homeless for disparate treatment, and prevents the homeless from traveling to or residing in the city of Portland.” Three of the four plaintiffs have disabilities.

Altogether, attorneys with the Oregon Law Center argued five reasons why the lawsuit should go forward. Judge Aiken supported two – that the ordinances violated their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eigth Amendment, and their rights to equal treatment under the law. The judge dismissed their claims to defend their rights to free travel, freedom of movement, and due process.

Monica Goracke with the Oregon Law Center says that  the judge’s ruling allows the case to proceed. “The next step is to exchange information in the discovery process,” Goracke says, which will mean several more months will pass before there is any further decision on the plaintiff’s claims.

The city prohibits camping or the construction of temporary structures on public property. However, those ordinances may be lifted by the city in “extraordinary circumstances.”

In a recent report from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Oregon now leads the nation in the precentage of homeless people per capita. Oregon’s homeless rate is 0.54 percent, according to HUD.

Read more in Friday’s Street Roots.

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

One response to “Judge’s ruling advances anti-camping lawsuit

  1. In Portland rain, almost year round, it would be very difficult to be homeless without a tarp.

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