Portland city council hears public testimony on new homeless camping ban

On Wednesday afternoon, the Portland City Council will hear public testimony on Mayor Ted Wheeler’s proposed new restrictions on camping.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 2:36 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - On Wednesday afternoon, the Portland City Council heard public testimony on Mayor Ted Wheeler’s proposed new restrictions on camping.

Wheeler’s proposed ordinance restricts daytime camping on city property between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., and additionally prohibits camping altogether near schools, daycares, shelters, in front of businesses, and near high crash risk roadways.

Tensions ran high at a Portland City Council meeting Wednesday where the public was invited to share opinions on proposed homeless ordinances.

With this ban, Portland would be in compliance with Oregon House Bill 3115, which governs homeless camping and the reasonable time, place, and manner that permit people who are homeless to temporarily camp in reasonably safe and sanitary locations while they are actively seeking access to stable housing, as well as to adopt reasonable policies related to the removal of established camping sites.

SEE ALSO: Portland-area homeless services groups brace for new camping ban

According to Wheeler’s proposed ban, unrestricted camping on Portland city property impairs the general public’s ability to use those areas for their intended purposes and leads to unhealthy and unhygienic living conditions that may endanger the community’s overall health, welfare, and safety.

Public testimony started at 3 p.m. The council was originally planned to vote on the ordinance following testimony. But that has been postposed.

Earlier on Wednesday, a settlement for the lawsuit alleging that homeless people camped out on public sidewalks violated the Americans with Disabilities Act was approved by the council. Officials decided to prioritize removing campsites that obstruct sidewalks and to restrict the number of tents and tarps that can be distributed by city employees.

According to the lawsuit, which was brought last September by a group of ten Portland residents with mobility issues, homeless tents and other debris on sidewalks and public thoroughfares put those with disabilities in danger.

The city was obligated by the lawsuit to make all sidewalks safe and usable and to keep them clear at all times.

To prevent any further litigation, the city made a provisional agreement to the settlement last week.

In addition to setting up a 24-hour reporting line, posting “no camping” signs in trouble spots, and prioritizing the removal of campsites that block sidewalks, officials also agreed to stop giving out tents and tarps, except for during relocations or inclement weather.

According to the settlement, the City must continue to provide Impact Reduction Program services with a minimum yearly budget in order to cover the cost of campsite removals. These minimum funding obligations total $20 million during the five-year length of the settlement agreement, which includes $8 million in Fiscal Year 2023–2024 and $3 million in each of the four fiscal years after that.

The changes will be enforced under the direction of the Impact Reduction Program. Additionally, the Portland Bureau of Transportation will participate by accepting accommodation requests through its existing infrastructure and system and coordinating with the Impact Reduction Program to assign priority to responses. Additionally, PBOT will post signage warning against obstructing pedestrian movement.

Due to the fact that the complaint was brought against the city and not Multnomah County, the Joint Office of Homeless Services is exempt from any obligations in the response.