The city of Beaverton is considering an ordinance to ban camping on city streets and other public “right of way areas.”
City council held a public hearing on a draft of the proposal Tuesday night. More than 20 people signed up to speak, many of them against the ban, calling it a move to “criminalize homelessness.”
But city officials and Beaverton police said they’ve heard an earful from frustrated business owners and residents over the past two years and told FOX 12 that formal complaints about issues related to homelessness have increased considerably.
In the draft ordinance, the city claims complainers have “noticed a decrease in the level of sanitation and have a reduced sense of safety in certain areas.”
Unlike Portland’s very visible tents and sleeping bags, most of the homeless in Beaverton live out of their camper trailers and cars.
Southwest 5th Street and Western Avenue is the most concentrated area of homeless in the city, according to police and city staff.
Officers have responded to calls in the area dozens of times over the last year and made at least 22 arrests, according to Sgt. Ken Feist, who also added that officers have visited the area countless other times to help campers with rides, connections to social services and trash cleanup.
Camper Kim Lambright said she’s received two citations in the year-and-a-half she’s lived along the street.
“I worked for an entire year at the Pool Hall, trying to get myself off this curb, and I feel like I’m in a hamster wheel,” Lambright said. “And the minute I stop, I’m right back where I started...on foot with no job.”
The homeless camp is just feet away from the Northwest Fencing Center, a sporting center where children attended classes and lessons.
“People are a little apprehensive at times about dropping their kids off,” Executive Director Larry Crepeaux said. “Our fencers and our parents have been compassionate and really understanding, but it’s growing, and obviously the city has been struggling to find the right answer to help people.”
Crepeaux said he thinks a camping ban would be a good idea.
“I think it’s a good step forward,” Crepeaux said. “I think they need to find something that recognizes both sides need help.”
As for Lambright, she said she doesn’t plan on moving from 5th Avenue. Ban or no ban.
“I can’t move, so there’s nothing I can do about it,” Lambright said.
It’s not a choice, Lambright said. She’d rather have a home.
"All I want is a place to stay where I can have my cat back,” Lambright said with tears. “She didn’t like my other truck and I didn’t want to force it on her.”
“I figured I’d have a place by now, but that old hamster wheel,” she added.
Beaverton City Council is still many steps and hearings away from any possible vote on the ordinance.
As the proposal is written now, police would have to give campers at least 72 hours notice on their first offense.
Officers would be tasked with cleaning up camps and there would be rules for collecting and holding onto property.
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