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‘Inevitable’: Portland City Council passes daytime camping ban

By Jami SeymoreElise HaasAmanda Arden,


PORTLAND, Ore. ( KOIN ) – Portland City Council voted Wednesday evening to pass an ordinance that bans camping in the city during the day starting July 7.

The ordinance bans camping in public places from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and forbids camping near parks, docks, schools and construction zones. Campers also cannot block home and business entries.

Repeat violators will face a $100 fine or 30 days in jail.

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Katie O’Brien, the executive director of the women’s day shelter Rose Haven, said ahead of the vote that she and her colleagues were against the ordinance. She said the ban is counterproductive, because campers be forced to spend a lot of time and energy lugging their belongings throughout the day.

“I think it’s inevitable that is going to go through today,” she said. “I think that my first reaction is that this is going to be really problematic for people who are living outside, and it’s not a reasonable expectation on a lot of levels.”

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O’Brien says many people living outside have disabilities, so she thinks it will be challenging to enforce breaking down a tent at 8 a.m. and packing up their belongings to carry with them all day.

Kirkpatrick Tyler, Urban Alchemy’s chief of governmental and community affairs, said the situation is “a tough needle to thread.”

Urban Alchemy, the group tasked with running Mayor Wheeler’s up-and-coming mass-sanctioned campsite in Southeast Portland, says its neutral to the camping ordinance.

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“These ordinances really are about creating usable space for everybody,” Tyler said. “And so far, for Urban Alchemy, we are glad that our part of the work is to provide safe spaces.”

He says he bases his organization’s success on creating safe spaces that treat people with dignity and respect.

“No one can look at the state of our unhoused neighbors living in encampments and say, that’s what somebody deserves,” he said. “I think we cannot romanticize the experience of our sisters and brothers that are unhoused.”

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He says wherever they operate regulated mass campsites in neighborhoods, they have an obligation to keep parks and schools safe — and streets and sidewalks that are passable.

O’Brien says that they all agree that they want sidewalks to be clear, saying “it’s safer, it’s easier, it’s friendlier.But she says it’s not just about the sidewalks.

“If we don’t have housing options or shelter options for people, it just seems like the timing isn’t right for this.”

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However, Mayor Ted Wheeler recently said the unsanctioned camps around the city are a “humanitarian catastrophe” and that the goal of the ordinance is to get people to services and shelter.

Wheeler’s office said if someone who is homeless is offered shelter or housing, and they decline it, they are prohibited from camping. They can receive up to two warnings — but a third warning would land them in jail or with fines.

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The Portland Police Bureau will manage enforcement. However, Aaron Schmautz, president of the Portland Police Association, the bureau’s union, said there needs to be better communication between the city and county on what outreach and potential enforcement will look like.

He’s also concerned the police bureau doesn’t have enough staff to take on this new responsibility.

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Scott Kerman, executive director of Blanchet House, a shelter in Portland, said the city needs to ensure there is sufficient training and guardrails to guarantee that enforcement is not inequitable.

Commissioner Mingus Mapps was out of town and did not vote on the camping ban, but voiced his support.

“I support this time, place, and manner ordinance and alignment with requirements under House Bill 3115,” Mapps said in a statement. “Portlanders want a return to order, cleanliness, and peace on our streets.”

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Mayor Ted Wheeler and commissioners Dan Ryan and Rene Gonzalez voted yes. Commissioner Carmen Rubio voted no.

“I voted no because I was interested in seeing a more thought out plan,” Rubio said. “Also there were some questions outstanding to me around where are folks going to go once it’s implemented. There are some steps that I think with more time and collaboration, we could have gotten to resolve these outstanding questions.”

Rubio also said more time was needed to vet the conditions and allow for outreach so “that the public knows where there are places to refer to or where individuals know where to go to.”

The concerns were not contained just in city council, as some say they’re worried about the impact on those living on the street and frontline workers.

“I have friends right now who are being moved around like crazy, who have lost their medications, who have to walk the streets at night because they’re being harassed in the middle of the night,” said Sandra Comstock, executive director of Hygiene4All.

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