Tag Archives: camping

City opens up overnight camping option for select sites

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff Writer

For years, Portland’s anti-camping ordinance has been the target of countless demonstrations by the homeless and their supporters.

They have marched, protested and held vigils at City Hall against the city’s policy that makes camping illegal on public property or on unpermitted private land, which they say effectively criminalizes the thousands of people in this city without homes. Continue reading

Seattle earmarks funds for camping pilot program

by Amy Roe

The Seattle City Council’s proposed 2012 budget contains some good news for those living in their cars.

The budget package includes $20,000 to fund case management services for a Safe Parking Pilot program at Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church in Ballard.

The money will pay for an outreach worker to help car campers get connected to resources, including permanent housing. Continue reading

Camp Pioneer emerges, to be swept tomorrow…

About 10 people experiencing homelessness set up a small tent community on a tiny triangle of land on North Wheeler Avenue just west of Dixon Street.

The camp has been in existence for two-weeks. This afternoon, a 24-hour notice for a illegal campsite was posted by the Portland Police Bureau.

“We’re homeless and we’re tired of being run off,” says Chrissy, one of a handful of people at the site Monday afternoon.

Paris, a camp organizer, says he thinks it’s wrong of the city to push them out. “No matter where we go, we’re going to get kicked out. Every night it’s the same thing. It’s the police, transit police, security; you name it. I don’t know where they expect us all to sleep.”

After two weeks at the location, the campers have cleared several yards of blackberry bushes and began planting crops for food. They say they need tools to get to work, but want to start building garden beds.

“All we’re trying to do is make it so people can feel safe,” says Rick, one of the campers at the site who has been homeless since he was 5. He’s now 25.

The City of Portland is currently in settlement negotiations with the Oregon Law Center on a year-and-half-old class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Portland’s camping ordinance. On Sept. 9, the City Council is holding an Executive Session on the camping lawsuit.

Nearly a year has passed since City Commissioner Nick Fish’s office unveiled proposals to loosen restrictions to the camping ordinance for people experiencing homelessness who sleep outdoors. No changes have been made.

by Israel Bayer & Joanne Zuhl.

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

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 people camp and protest once again at City Hall

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For the second time in less than two years, a group of homeless people are camping outside of City Hall to protest an ordinance they view as criminalizing and stopping them from getting a good night’s sleep.

Beginning at 9 o’clock this evening, 20 individuals set up their sleeping bags and other belongings along the southern side of the front entrance of City Hall. Art Rios, who is organizing the protest, says that the people are camping this year for the same reason as they were last year.

“We want the anti-camping ordinance to be suspended,” he says. “We want a campsite that’s safe.”

The anti-camping ordinance is a city-wide ordinance that bans camping on public property. Homeless people and many advocates says the ordinance criminalizes homeless people who are forced to sleep in public spaces at night because they do not have access to shelters or other places to sleep.

For three weeks during May 2008, a group of homeless people ranging in size from 40 to 120 people protested and camped outside of City Hall to protest the anti-camping ordinance and the sidewalk obstruction ordinance (known as the “sit-lie” ordinance), which illegalized sitting or lying down on the sidewalk during the day. In June 2009, that ordinance was ruled unconstitutional by Judge Stephen Bushong in district court.

Rios says that he plans to have organized camps at City Hall Monday through Friday, 9pm to 7am. That, he says, is enough to get eight hours of sleep, but also will not “interrupt City Hall’s business,” as well as get the attention of politicians, advocates, bureaucrats and the public.

“I want to show the City…that a camp size of 10 to 15 people can be here and not bother their day to day process,” Rios says.

There is currently a sub-group of the Coordinating Committee to End Homelessness, the group charged with implementing and overseeing the City’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, that is currently looking at ways for homeless people who do not have access to shelter to sleep outside at night. The group is hoping to some of those proposals in place in the next three to six months. Rios is skeptical.

“I hear about all these proposals, and there is no action happening,” Rios says.

Check the October 2 edition of Street Roots for more information about the City’s efforts, as well as more information about the protest.

By Amanda Waldroupe

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