Salem eyes 'sit and lie' ordinance for city sidewalks - KPTV - FOX 12

Salem eyes 'sit and lie' ordinance for city sidewalks

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A growing homeless population in Salem has city leaders looking at a “sit and lie” ordinance aimed at curbing camping or loitering on public sidewalks.

The idea is getting mixed reaction in the Cherry City.

The city says in recent years there has been an increase in people sitting, lying and leaving personal property unattended on sidewalks as well as setting up campsites in public areas not designed for it.

The city says all of that is putting public safety into question and the economic vitality of affected businesses. In recent months the city has received complaints from people of feeling unsafe to use public sidewalks.

At the Sept. 25 city council meeting, councilors will get a look at a proposed ordinance to put an end to sidewalk camping and loitering.

Businesses in the downtown core have mixed reactions to the news. Some side with the city, but at the same time want to see the growing homeless population helped.

“Most of the cardboard that is right down there actually came from the front of our store and it has built over the last day or two,” Christy Wood said.

Wood owns a craft studio at the corner of Chemeketa and Commercial, an area where campers are known to frequent. She sees both sides of the argument.

“A lot of it is mental illness and you see that and they don’t have a place that they can go and so it is hard for me to get really angry about any of it when I see humans that aren’t able to cope with their lives,” Wood said.

She says she is close enough to the Union Gospel Missions that if she has an issue she can call them and they help will help resolve it. 

“I think it is important that whatever resources are available we try to help folks, even if they don’t always want the help,” Wood said.

Salem city leaders said they looked to other cities when drafting their ordinance to balance the rights for everyone involved.

The ACLU of Oregon is not thrilled with the idea. Policy Director Kimberly McCullough sent a statement to KPTV saying:

"This law is deeply problematic. It not only allows officers to ticket people who sit down on public sidewalks, but those people may also be excluded from downtown Salem and portions of north Salem for thirty or more days under threat of arrest and prosecution for trespass.

Laws that make basic acts of survival illegal are ineffective, counterproductive, and often unconstitutional. This ordinance will not reduce homelessness or make Salem safer. Instead, it will violate rights and exacerbate the hardships of people living without homes, creating a downward spiral of entanglement with the criminal justice system.

Homelessness is not caused by behavior that needs to be criminalized or curbed. It is instead caused by lack of affordable housing, employment and social services. That is where Salem should be investing its resources, rather than enacting laws that will inevitably make it harder for people to find a way out of homelessness."

The city says they are working on other programs to help the homeless population including a homeless rental assistance program and affordable housing.

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