Digging into the weeds of the Portland City Charter, the city’s Human Rights Commission came across offensive language on “vagrants” and “cripples” it wants to see changed.
The commission is recommending to its members who also serve on the Charter Review Commission that the following provisions in the current charter be changed to reflect human dignity:
2-105 (51) – Vagrancy
51. To define what constitutes vagrancy, and to provide for the support,
restraint, punishment and employment of vagrants and paupers.
2-105(54) – Exhibition of cripples; begging
54. To prohibit the exhibition of deformed or crippled persons, and to
prohibit all persons from begging upon the streets or in public places.
“Particularly why those stand out to The Human Rights Commission is because of the increase in the homeless population,” said Donita Fry, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission. The commission’s letter to the Charter Commission members also said that “referring to individuals as paupers and cripples is not appropriate in any setting, much less the “constitution” of the City of Portland.”
The letter, signed by Fry, refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the General Assembly of the United Nations. “That document underscores the inherent dignity and worth of all members of the human family. The First Article states, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’
“We ask the current Charter Review Commission to address these two provisions of the Charter and to send to the voters a clear choice for addressing these offensive City Charter provisions,” states the letter, sent via e-mail.
Oregon’s point-in-time count identified 22,116 people experiencing homelessness, a 29 percent increase over the count conducted in 2009.
The Human Rights Commission has also come out critical of the city’s Sidewalk Management Ordinance, which dictates times and locations where people can sit on a sidewalk. The vast majority of those cited under the ordinance in the past year reported being homeless, according to the police reports. The commission has called that ordinance an “arbitrary hammer” with an inequitable impact that “violates international human rights standards.”
The provisions above came to the attention of the Human Rights Commission as it is seeking to have language inserted into the charter to make the commission a permanent entity within in the city.
Posted by Joanne Zuhl