Tag Archives: camping ordinance

Homeless amass along the Rose Festival Parade route along SW 4th and Washington

Around 80 individuals experiencing homelessness and supporters, including six Street Roots vendors have plopped down tents along the Rose Festival Parade route on SW 4th and Washington.

The group is protesting Portland’s camping ordinance — which criminalizes people sleeping outdoors. One participant says, “We’re making a statement about homelessness and the fact that we are criminalized for our social status. It’s inhumane, especially when so many people are sick and dying out here.”

Legal observers with the National Lawyers Guild were on hand to make sure that people’s right on the streets were upheld, including “free speech.”

Street Roots has extensively covered the camping ordinance over the years, including highlighting alternatives.

Posted by Israel Bayer.

State camping bill considered a ‘workable solution’

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

A bill that would require the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to provide between five days and two weeks notice of a camp sweep on state-owned land passed the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee on Monday.

The Senate version of the bill, SB 447, also requires that the notice be printed in English and Spanish, say when the sweep will take place, and leave information, if belongings are removed, of where the belongings can be picked up, and when.
Marc Jolin, the executive director of the outreach agency JOIN, says that the bill will ensure that the belongings of homeless individuals who camp near the Eastbank Esplanade, under bridges, and underneath freeway overpasses won’t be lost.

“(Right now) there is no specific notice,” he says. “It’s a win-win. It creates less conflict for ODOT, and improves the situation for everyone.”

The Oregon Law Center, which provides legal services to low-income and homeless individuals, was a main pusher of the bill, as was Lane County Legal Aid and Advocacy Center.

“The underlying concept of the bill is that advance and effective notice of an impending camp clean-up will encourage homeless individuals to move their belongings themselves,” said Sybil Hebb, a lawyer at the Oregon Law Center, at a February 28 hearing.

A 2010 bill would have fast-tracked camp sweeps without notifying homeless individuals who camped in those areas. The Oregon Law Center opposed the bill, and it did not become law.

The current bill originated not from homeless advocates, but out of environmental concerns. John Brown, a Eugene environmental advocate, worried that accumulated garbage along the banks of the Willamette River would enter and contaminate the river during floods, and thus impact the river’s water quality.

“On many occasions, I have had a difficult time making sure the items found under overpasses (and) bridges do not get washed into the waterways during periods of peak high water,” he said at the same hearing. He says the bill gives a “workable solution.”

The bill passed the Senate on April 7, so the bill’s next stop is a vote on the House floor. If the House passes the bill, it moves to Governor John Kitzhaber’s desk to sign into law.

Happy (legal) campers— Eugene, Oregon

More than a decade ago, the city of Eugene took a radical approach to common sense: faced with a homeless population it had neither the resources nor capacity to address, the city changed course and instituted a homeless camping program.

That was in 1998, and the program today has a backlog of people without homes that need a place to camp in safety and without penalty. The program is managed by St. Vincent DePaul, and the man at the helm of matching up campers with lots on public, private and faith-based properties is Keith Heath.

Currently there are 20 legal spaces managed by St. Vincent dePaul, including 10 on city property. The faith-based community offers some additional spaces for families, along with sites that are not managed by SVDP. Typically the spaces are for a 90-day period with the hope that the campers, age 18 or over, can use the time to transition to housing or another situation.

The program is at capacity. Heath says there is a waiting list of about 50 to 60 homeless people seeking a camping space. Campers must check in through the Eugene Service Station each week to remain on the list.

In Portland, advocates, attorneys and city officials have been hashing out possible changes to the city’s camping ordinance, and Eugene’s program for homeless campers is being looked at as a model for possible modifications.

Heath says the program has drawn considerable attention of late, as other cities consider new approaches to alleviate the growing crisis on their streets.

Joanne Zuhl: What’s the demand for this kind of program in Eugene and the surrounding area?

Keith Heath: According to the 2009 annual count of homeless people, homelessness has continually increased each year. The number of people who are chronically homeless has grown from 16 percent of the local homeless population four years ago, to over 50 percent today. Homeless residents of Eugene who camp in vehicles on the street are typically under-employed, unemployed, and in many cases, disabled. There are not enough subsidized housing, social-service and treatment programs available to meet the demand. Continue reading

Sidewalk ordinance coming; drafts of alcohol impact area and camping updates

This fell into the Street Roots mailbox tonight.

Dear Sharing Public Sidewalks committee member,

Attached are the notes from the March 1, 2010 meeting. Please contact Sara Hussein if you have corrections.

The Mayor is working with the City Attorney to propose a new sidewalks ordinance along the lines suggested at the end of last year, i.e. keeping sidewalks open for through traffic especially with regard to facilitating movement for people with disabilities. It is hoped a draft proposal will be out next week. The Mayor wants the Sharing Public Sidewalks committee to review and comment on the proposal. We will send it to you when it is available. The April 6, 2010 meeting of our committee will be devoted to discussion of your opinions about it. A public hearing would be scheduled before Council after the committee’s review.

The Mayor and I appreciate your willingness to participate on the committee and give us your advice.

Amanda Fritz

Commissioner, City of Portland

The following are notes from the March 1 SHARING PUBLIC SIDEWALKS ADVISORY COMMITTEE Continue reading

Camping lawsuit talks stall as new rules hang in the balance

New guidelines for homeless campsites could land before council in the coming weeks

By Amanda Waldroupe
Contributing Writer

As of late January, the settlement negotiations to a year-old class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Portland’s camping ordinance have stalled, with litigation proceeding.

“I had very much hoped that the settlement would be in place right now, given that it’s winter and it’s cold and people are outside and it’s miserable,’ says Monica Goracke with the Oregon Law Center, which filed the case in December 2008 on behalf of seven plaintiffs. “We and the city attorney’s office worked very hard to come up with what we feel is a reasonable settlement, and I still hope that we can reach agreement. But we are fully prepared to litigate this case if necessary.”

But the city attorney in charge of that case and City Commissioner Nick Fish say that negotiations to end the lawsuit are not dead, and new guidelines dictating permissible camping should become city policy in two weeks. Fish said that he is working with Dan Saltzman, the commissioner in charge of the Portland Police Bureau, on setting new camping guidelines

“I think it is quite likely that these guidelines will be the basis of a settlement to the federal lawsuit,” Fish says.

“The plan is to test drive them first,” Fish says. “It is my hope they will provide a framework for settling the lawsuit.”

Camps that are four people or smaller, out of earshot and sight of other camps or 50 yards away, and is not loud or causing health and sanitation problems would be allowed on public property between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. The police also could not, under the proposed guidelines, enforce the anti-camping ordinance against people sleeping in their cars.

Continue reading

Businesses sign on to letter regarding camping settlement

The following is the letter to city commissioners  —  addressed to Parks and Housing Bureau Commissioner Nick Fish — regarding  proposed changes in the city’s camping laws with regard to people on the streets:

December 18, 2009

The Honorable Nick Fish

City of Portland

1221 S.W. Fourth Avenue, Room 240

Portland OR 97204

Re:  City Camping Ordinance

Dear Commissioner Fish:

It was a pleasure to see the Resource Access Center break ground recently.  We appreciate all your efforts to make this important project a reality and are looking forward to when that facility is open and additional resources are available.  In the meantime, we would like to express our concerns regarding the challenge to the city’s camping ordinance and potential settlement options.

Our organizations support the city’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness and the strategy to provide shelter and permanent housing for all those who need and seek it. At the same time, while we believe that the city can and should do more to address issues relating to homelessness, we do not believe the city is required to solve the issue of homelessness before it can enforce reasonable restrictions on the time, place and manner of the use of public spaces for the purpose of camping.  We would like to see the city aggressively defend its authority in this regard, and we do not support a negotiated settlement that unnecessarily diminishes the city’s authority to manage its public spaces.

We do, however, recognize that the city must make a determination whether it would be better served by a negotiated settlement of the current challenge.  If the city moves forward with a negotiated settlement, we believe there are a number of important factors that should be incorporated into any agreement to ensure its workability for all parties.

Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

The wait is over! The latest edition of Street Roots rolls off the press tomorrow morning for a very personalized delivery in your neighborhood by your local vendor. He’s not the only face you’ll recognize this weekend:

The home team’s advantage: Former NFL quarterback Joey Harrington focuses his gaze on Portland’s front lines. Joanne Zuhl sat down with Harrington, who is settling back into Portland and working with multiple charities benefiting children and the homeless.

Camping lawsuit talks stall as new rules hang in the balance: New guidelines for homeless campsites could land before council in the coming weeks. Amanda Waldroup reports on the status of negotiations with the lawsuit and it’s potential impact on a proposal to loosen camping laws for the city’s homeless population.

States, cities explore housing funding frameworks: A rundown of what other communities doing to find creative ways to correct the affordable housing deficit.

Of gatekeepers and street sweepers: Poet, author, artist, agitator Saul Williams lays his alter ego to rest.

And commentaries from the Mental Health Association of Portland, the People’s Planet crew and much more. Don’t wait too long or they could be gone. Grab your raincoat, a cup of joe, and your new Street Roots Friday morning!

With winter coming, the city explores where people can sleep – legally

From the Oct. 2 edition of Street Roots

Just as the city of Portland, service providers and advocates are seeking ways to allow homeless individuals without access to shelter “get a decent night’s sleep,” a group of individuals has begun camping outside of City Hall, reminiscent of a three-week protest in May 2008.

Gathering outside of Mercy Corps’ Action Center near Skidmore Fountain on Sept. 28, a group of 20 homeless individuals signed a code of conduct, agreeing to not use drugs or alcohol, pick up after themselves and to respect others. Once they were all signed, they took the MAX to City Hall and set up their camping gear to sleep there during the night.

Organized by Art Rios, who was formerly homeless and has been involved with Sisters of the Road’s Civic Action Group, the group is camping outside of City Hall during the night for the same reasons, Rio says, that homeless people protested for three weeks outside of City Hall in 2008.

“Get the anti-camping ordinance suspended,” he says. “It’s about coming to a safe place to sleep for eight hours. We just want a campsite that’s safe.”

A statement released by Rios calls for the creation of safe places for tent cities, campsites and shelter before the weather turns cold.

“They (the city) need to open up more shelters and they know that, but we can show them they need to move it a little quicker,” says Chris Shields, 47, a homeless person who was part of the group sleeping outside of City Hall.

In the last few months, the Portland Housing Bureau and members of the Coordinating Committee to End Homelessness, the committee of Portland Housing Bureau members, advocates, and nonprofit service providers that oversee and implement the City’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness have been considering ways that might address Rios’ and the camper’s concerns.

An informal committee calling itself the Alternative Workgroup, convened by Sally Erickson, the manager of the Portland Housing Bureau’s Ending Homelessness Initiative, has met three times during the past two months, with a narrow focus: think of ways that homeless people who camp outside, either willfully or because they cannot get into shelter, can sleep through the night safely. The work group includes representatives from Sisters of the Road, Street Roots, and several people experiencing homelessness, including Street Roots’ vendor Leo Rhodes.

“It’s in all of our interests that everyone is able to stay warm and healthy,” says Marc Jolin, the executive director of the outreach agency JOIN, who is a member of the Coordinating Committee and the Alternatives Workgroup. “If they can’t get a good night’s sleep, they can’t stay healthy, their ability to help themselves is severely compromised.”

On Sept. 16, the Alternatives Workgroup presented its 13 recommendations to the Coordinating Committee. Continue reading

BREAKING NEWS: Homeless campers release statement


A group of around 20 individuals experiencing homelessness released a statement tonight about the protest in front of City Hall.

“We are here tonight to show that this is the only campsite that is safe inside the city of Portland and that we really need places that we are able to go for the night and know that we are going to be safe. By safe, we mean that we’ll be able to pitch a tent or sleep in a shelter or live in a tent city without harassment from the police.”

The statement goes on to say that individuals experiencing homelessness need more access to services, including emergency shelter year round. The group also asks the city to allow for another tent city within the city limits of Portland.

In July of last year, Street Roots’ Amanda Waldroupe explored what another tent city in Portland might look like.

In May of this year, Street Roots called for another tent city as a possible alternative in an editorial titled, Another Dignity Village? Why not?

Currently, the city is looking at several alternative proposals surrounding camping, including allowing for another tent city. The camping ordinance itself is currently being challenged in court by the Oregon Law Center. In August, a district judge gave the green light to a group of homeless people in the class action suit after the city tried to have it thrown out of court.

Read more about the protest and alternatives the city is exploring in the next edition of Street Roots this Friday.

Posted by Israel Bayer

Extra! Extra!

aug0709page1Journalism is the first rough draft of history, a famous publisher once said. Get a leg up on the future and buy a copy of Street Roots first thing tomorrow. Your friendly neighborhood vendor will thank you! Here’s what’s making history on our pages this week:

Living between two worlds: Mara Grunbaum reports on how African refugees battle cultural isolation as they try to adapt to their new home in Portland.

Feds extend $30 million to staunch Section 8 bleeding: The latest in a string of reports about the fallout from housing assistance cuts in Northwest Oregon and beyond. Joanne Zuhl reports.

Street papers lay foundation for stronger movement: Israel Bayer writes on the 2009 conference of the North American Street Newspaper Association and the leadership role Street Roots has taken in this remarkable movement.

Good money after bad: Seattle puts $8 million behind grassroots initiatives to stop youth violence on the streets. This is one of two stories inside this edition that looks at the state of youths on the streets in America.

Addicts Almanac: Tye Doudy continues his series on life on the streets of Portland, living through addiction and learning to survive.

And check out new columns from Leo Rhodes, our vendor in the Northeast, and the Mental Health Association of Portland. Page after page, this issue is just packed! And still just a buck.

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

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

Judge considers petition to dismiss lawsuit challenging Portland’s anti-camping ordinance

By Amanda Waldroupe
District Court Judge Ann Aiken heard oral arguments from Deputy City Attorney David Landrum and the Oregon Law Center’s Monica Goracke this morning to determine the validity of a class action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of city ordinances prohibiting camping and erecting temporary structures on public property.

The suit — Anderson et al. vs. the City of Portland — claims that for people who are homeless, the city’s ordinances violate their constitutional rights, such as freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and the right to travel.

Landrum is asking the court to dismiss the case because the legal merits of Goracke’s arguments were not well-founded. Landrum also argued that overturning the anti-camping ordinance would create a legal precedent for providing certain groups immunity from being criminally convicted.

“Irrespective of the Plaintiff’s relative efforts one way or another to alleviate or not alleviate the condition that they find themselves, which is indigency, it really turns the idea of equal protection on its head,” Landrum said.
Continue reading

Camping ordinance being challenged

The Oregon Law Center’s class action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Portland’s camping ordinance follows in a long line of similar lawsuits filed across the country to vindicate the Constitutional rights of homeless individuals.

And because of prior lawsuits and the precedents they established, the lawsuit, Anderson v. Portland, has a strong chance of being successful. That would add Portland to a small list of cities whose camping ordinances have been declared unconstitutional.

“There is a solid basis for this lawsuit,” says Adam Arms, the civil rights lawyer who successfully challenged an unconstitutional version of the city’s sidewalk obstructions ordinance in 2004.

Tulin Ozdeger, the National Law Center on Homeless and Poverty’s civil rights program director agrees. “As shown by other successful cases across the country… there are a lot of Constitutional problems with these kinds of measures,” says Ozdeger.

Anderson v. Portland, filed in federal court on December 12, argues that the camping ordinance is unconstitutional in two respects.

First, the illegalization of outdoor sleeping when there are not enough shelter beds for homeless individuals cruelly and unusually punishes homeless people, violating the 8th Amendment of the Constitution.

“The Defendants’ [the City of Portland and the Police Bureau] pattern of citing and threatening to arrest involuntarily homeless individuals such as Plaintiffs for illegal camping and other offenses when they are sleeping outdoors… based on their status as homeless persons… is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the lawsuit reads.

A 2006 case, Jones v. Los Angeles, challenged Los Angeles’ camping ordinance, which made it illegal to camp in public spaces at any time of the day.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the city of Los Angeles could not legally punish homeless individuals for sleeping outside when not enough shelter beds exist to provide night shelter to all the city’s homeless.

“It was a huge victory,” says Becky Dennison, co-director of the Los Angeles

Community Action Network, which pursues community organizing efforts in Skid Row.

The precedent set by that case recognized that people have a right to sleep and perform other activities necessary to survive and live.

“There’s no right more fundamental than the right to survive, the right to perform life sustaining activities,” Arms says. Continue reading

Lawyers for homeless to sue city over camping ordinance

Posted Dec. 11, 2008


Portland’s anti-camping ordinance is facing a legal challenge by lawyers with the Oregon Law Center who say the ordinance violates the constitutional rights of people experiencing homelessness.

The lawsuit, which is expected to be filed Friday, calls for the city to stop the ban on homeless people sleeping outside in Portland.

The lawyers say that the defendants — four homeless people who were cited for camping in Portland parks. — were subjected to cruel and unusual punishment as a result of the city’s ordinance. The ordinance prohibits people from camping on most public and private property.

For more on the camping ordinance, including changes in notice procedures that break it wide open for clearing camps, read Amanda Waldroupe’s story from Nov. 28.

The lawsuit says the city’s pattern of “citing and threatening to arrest involuntarily homeless individuals” for illegal camping is a violation of the Eighth Amendment. The ordinance and the procedures surrounding it also violates their plaintiffs Fourteenth Amendment right to personal liberty and due process.

The lawsuit cites the realities facing people on the street with regard to sleep and shelter:
“Punishing homeless people for sleeping outside is placing the burden of the lack of sufficient housing squarely on the shoulders of those who can do the least to remedy this problem. It exacerbates the misery and suffering of homeless people and pointlessly prolongs their homelessness by enmeshing them in the criminal justice system’s maze of court dates, fines, community service, and jail time. It also fails to provide alternative options. Many homeless people are shut out of the private housing market because of their eviction history, criminal background or lack of income. Shelters rae difficult if not impossible to access for people who are disabled, mentally ill, seeking drug or alcohol treatment, part of a couple, or who have pets. Rather than address these problems directly, the City of Portland has chosen in effect to criminalize the status of being homeless.”

And that about sums it up. But there’s much more to come as the story develops. Look for more in tomorrow’s blog and upcoming editions of Street Roots.

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

City’s new anti-camping policy drawing fire

Posted Dec. 3, 2008


Word is getting around about the city’s new camping ordinance guidelines as reported in the latest Street Roots. Reporter Amanda Waldroupe sheds light on new procedures that slipped under the radar as the city touted shelters, warming centers and assorted good-n-fuzzies. But the truth is, the city is expanding its opportunities to roust and displace, without notice, the growing number of our neighbors trying to stay warm, dry and safe at night. This, even as the city says shelter providers report about a 50 percent increase in the numbers of families seeking shelter.

Loaded Orygun adds great commentary to the subject. Read it here, and lend your voice to the discussion.

Read “New guidelines waive 24-hour notices to homeless campers” after the jump

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

Continue reading