Breaking: City poised to loosen camping restrictions for people experiencing homelessness

Portland is preparing to loosen its anti-camping policies by letting faith-based communities and nonprofits the opportunity to allow small-scale camping on their properties.

Commissioner Nick Fish’s office is proposing a resolution that would establish a one-year pilot project for allowing people without shelter to “sleep overnight in a vehicle, camper or trailer parked on an existing parking lot of a host. The host may not grant permission for use of more than one designated area for this use, or for more than a total of four vehicles, campers, or trailers,” the resolution says.

The resolution is slated to go before City Council on Wednesday, Dec. 13, with three commissioners present. Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Mayor Sam Adams will be on vacation.

The new policy is patterned after a similar one in Eugene that has allowed designated camping sites for people experiencing homelessness for 13 years.

In November, the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon sent letters to Fish and County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury’s office asking for the opportunity to explore hosting small-scale camps for the homeless.

“We’ve talked about doing something along the lines of what Eugene has done, and I think that got some renewed interested more recently when the faith-based organizations were getting involved in talking about what was happening with Operation Occupy and Right 2 Dream Too, saying was there something more that we can do.” said Betsy Ames, Fish’s chief of staff.

Ames described the new approach as a “light touch” that also encourages host sites to work with outreach organizations in helping people secure services and housing. The county is expected to follow through with a similar resolution, Ames said.

Here is the proposed draft of the resolution:

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

5 responses to “Breaking: City poised to loosen camping restrictions for people experiencing homelessness

  1. Unfortunately, this proposal falls far short of the fundamental issues at hand. Limiting legal camping to vehicles and RVs only privileges those who have a financial luxury of being able to own one; also it means that the campers also must be able to renew license, pay insurance, and keep the vehicle in good working order — all creating economic challenges unless they have a well-paying job. In the meanwhile, tents will remain unlawful. It also prevents private citizens and for-profit business owners (such as the landlord of Right2Dream Too) from offering dormant properties for encampment purposes. It is also not clear whether the churches and non-profit organizations approved under this plan must actually own the land, and many non-profit organization and churches lease their facilities.

  2. In following Sarah’s comments that I agree with, the limit to 4 vehicles is poor, when there are large parking lots. There is also a large need here! I don’t know why they can’t see the idea of tent cities working here, where there are up to 100 people camped in tents in a parking lot. The tent cities have won over the churches where they have camped. Is there some possible worry that seeing people in tents will change our society?

    Will making it a more compassionate, forgiving society change some basic tenets of our society in ways some people don’t want us to go? I will remind people that when the Dawes act was passed, that gave ‘personal property’ to native folks, it was done because native people were not ‘greedy’ enough. Look it up!! I swear this is what the lawmakers said!! That our civilization is built upon greed! Furthermore, the Dawes act began a time for homelessness among the native peoples that historically did not have homelessness problems. I for one, don’t believe people are greedy at heart, nor do they wish to be, but public opinion is a powerful force.

    Keep working it Fish! Please!

  3. Looking at the short history of the Occupy movement in America, it speaks volumes when it is the tents, the encampments, that attract the greatest repression by the government officials. They frankly do not care if the Occupiers marched or picketed; it was against the tent cities they dispatched their paramilitary police and committed violence. Even within the Occupy movement some people do not simply “get” the importance of the encampments. Yet, there is a reason why it is called Occupy, not March or Picket, Wall Street. In America, somehow tents are so threatening and offensive to the powers-that-be. I have written on this subject in the Cascadian Journal of Occupology, which one can find at http://cjoccupology.blogspot.com/2011/12/c-word-no-were-not-camping-or-are-we.html.

  4. Looking at the short history of the Occupy movement in America, it speaks volumes when it is the tents, the encampments, that attract the greatest repression by the government officials. They frankly do not care if the Occupiers marched or picketed; it was against the tent cities they dispatched their paramilitary police and committed violence. Even within the Occupy movement some people do not simply “get” the importance of the encampments. Yet, there is a reason why it is called Occupy, not March or Picket, Wall Street. In America, somehow tents are so threatening and offensive to the powers-that-be. I have written on this subject in the Cascadian Journal of Occupology, which one can find at http://cjoccupology.blogspot.com/2011/12/c-word-no-were-not-camping-or-are-we.html .

  5. Excellent points, Sarah. I spent a lot of time at the Occupy encampments, and did not feel threatened one bit. I think a lot of people are threatened by these camps/tents because it hits a little too close to home….brings home a reality that people don’t want to face. It’s like they deep inside fear that homelessness is “catchy”. What should be grabbing people’s attention is the fact that so many people need somewhere to camp in the first place….but the first line of defense is “get a job”, or “they’re a bunch of dirty hippies”. However, a bunch of dirty hippies is not what i saw in Occupy, or people in general. Sad..

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