PORTLAND, Ore. — After the city of Portland’s daytime ban on homeless camping on most city property was put on pause, some from the homeless community and advocacy groups are breathing a sigh of relief — for now.
A group of homeless Portlanders had sued the city, calling it unconstitutional given the lack of shelter space in Portland. A circuit court judge ruled in their favor, temporarily blocking the city from enforcing it.
“It’s unconstitutional. It is,” said Patrick, who is homeless. “We have the freedom to be, as long as we’re not making a mess, as long as we’re not destroying property; the spaces are here.”
In June, the city passed the ban; repeat violations of that ban would have resulted in fines or jail time. The city spent the summer and much of the fall in what they called an “educational phase,” where they informed homeless people about it, though many homeless people still know little about the ban. Then, at the end of October, the city announced they would begin enforcement on Nov. 13, but late Thursday afternoon, a judge blocked the city from doing that for the time being, arguing that the ban itself is unconstitutional.
“It’s super confusing, and it’s super stressful. People come here with a lot of anxiety already,” said Katie O’Brien, the executive director of Rose Haven, a day center for homeless women and children in Northwest Portland. She says they were bracing for an overwhelming demand in services if the ban went into effect.
“There was this relief that came with knowing that there was going to be a pause,” O’Brien added. She said she hopes the city will use this time to create a more organized approach to addressing homelessness, which she says recent efforts have lacked.
“Communication and coordination and additional resources being available is going to be the key to success in getting people off our streets,” O’Brien said.
Mayor Ted Wheeler issued a statement regarding Thursday’s ruling, saying in part, “I believe the status quo is not working, but the Court’s decision leaves the status quo in place. The City will abide by the Court’s preliminary order while continuing to fight in court for the City’s right to adopt reasonable regulations on unsanctioned camping.”
Last year, a group of Portlanders with disabilities sued the city over tents blocking ADA access on the sidewalks. A judge ruled in their favor, and the city agreed to clear those types of campsites. The lawyers behind that case tell KGW that an update on that is coming soon.