City ends 'safe sleep' policy allowing homeless camping on Portl - KPTV - FOX 12

City ends 'safe sleep' policy allowing homeless camping on Portland streets

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

After six months, the city of Portland is ending a pilot program allowing homeless camping on sidewalks and streets.

Mayor Charlie Hales announced Tuesday that the "safe sleep guidelines" instituted in February would not be renewed.

The guidelines allowed sleeping bags or tarps on sidewalks, as well as tents on rights of way other than sidewalks from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. No groups were allowed to have more than six people in any one location, according to the policy.

The goal, according to Hales, was to allow homeless people to get a safe night's sleep without being awoken for violating the city's camping ordinance.

Neighbors and community groups complained about the proliferation of tents, tarps and homeless camps around the city.

A number of organizations filed a lawsuit in April against the city and Hales calling the policy on homeless camping, "an impractical and irrational shortcut that has no possibility of fixing a serious, long-term challenge."

On Tuesday, a release from Hales' office said, "The guidelines caused confusion; people believed that camping was made legal, and outreach workers and law enforcement struggled to educate people about the difference between a safe night’s sleep and unsanctioned camping. Houseless people, housed people, and the Police Bureau indicated that the guidelines were not practicable.

Hales said he will now put together a group of experts to further examine the city's policies regarding people sleeping outside.

Hales said with the safe sleep guidelines ending Tuesday, police will "continue to use compassion in enforcement, recognizing that the city doesn't have enough shelter beds for everyone, and that some people have to sleep outside."

Hales said he's received criticism on both sides of the issue. "I’ve had to be a lighting rod on these issues and gotten criticism on all sides," Hales said. "That’s okay as long as we make real progress, help people and make the city more livable - that's a win."

The Portland Police Bureau issued a statement Tuesday saying the policy was "challenging" for officers and campers and quickly became "unenforceable" due to the number of camps. 

Moving forward, officers will have the discretion to enforce City Code and State Law. The policy change does not mean that the Bureau or officers have any immediate plans to clear up every instance of camping - its not feasible or compassionate. We will address areas where there is a clear public safety issue and will continue to respond to complaints.

Those experiencing homelessness should not expect an immediate enforcement effort and neither should those members of the public concerned about camping in their neighborhood. It will take a significant amount of time to effectively address the challenges and to get those in the greatest need connected to services.

When camps are cleaned up, campers will be given at least 72 hours advanced written notice.

For more information, go to portlandoregon.gov/toolkit.

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