Beaverton to ban homeless camping on city streets

(Image: KPTV)

In a 4-1 vote Tuesday night, Beaverton City Council passed an ordinance banning camping on city streets and other right-of-way areas, like sidewalks.

The decision comes after more than a month of debate on the topic at city council meetings.

Now, 81-year-old Tom Macdonnell will need to prepare for the changes. Macdonnell said he has been camping in his RV on Beaverton streets for two years, and is currently staying near the Fred Meyer off Northwest Schendel Avenue near 158th Avenue.

Macdonnell said he prefers the street because it’s quiet and safe, and is near the grocery store, his gym where he showers and his church.

“I’m concerned,” he said. “It would make life a little bit more difficult for me. I’d have to find other places – maybe another town.”

Supporters and critics of the ban spoke before councilors ahead of the vote.

Most who turned out were against the ban, saying it criminalizes homelessness and doesn’t provide any solutions or help to the city’s most vulnerable.

Students at two Beaverton high schools have been very vocal about their opposition to the proposal and have attended multiple council meetings.

FOX 12 did an investigative report back in February and found that the Beaverton School District has the highest number of homeless students in the entire state with more than 1,500 children.

Beaverton High freshman Reyna Ayala said she immediately thought of her homeless peers when councilors passed the ban.

“I’m obviously very disappointed,” Reyna said. “I was just thinking about all the kids at my high school who don’t want to move school districts.”

But neighbors and business owners near the homeless camps also turned out, pleading with councilors to pass the ordinance.

They spoke about unsightly and unsanitary conditions, and said they don’t feel safe near the camps.

FOX 12 spoke with one woman who said she had a scary encounter with a homeless man last month at the camp at Southwest 5th Street and Western Avenue.

“He started chasing me on his bike, screaming and yelling different obscenities,” said a woman who only wanted to be referred by her first name, Ljupka.

Ljupka said the man repeatedly told her he would kill her and she ran to a nearby home to beg for help.

“Is this how you’re going to die?” Ljupka said she remembered thinking. “Because you don’t know if he has knife, gun or he is so mentally ill -- you don’t know what will be his reaction.”

Ljupka now no longer uses the route near the camp to get home from work. She hopes the new ordinance will allow her to bike her normal route again.

The camping ban paves way for police to force homeless campers off public property. Officers must first give them 72 hours notice, and will collect and hold unclaimed belongings as the camps are cleared and cleaned up.

Violators of the ban can be slapped with a fine up to $100, or even spend up to 30 days in jail.

City councilors, at the meeting, agreed Beaverton must do more to help the homeless find housing and resources, now that they’re no longer allowed to camp.

The camping ban will take effect July 12. A city spokeswoman said officers and outreach workers will spend the next month warning campers and working to connect them with resources.

Copyright 2018 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


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