OPB Journalist Alex Zielinski writes about Portland’s daytime bans on homeless camping.
The Portland City Council is set to adopt stricter rules on homeless camping on public property. The ban would prohibit camping on public land between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., and impose limitations on camping locations and activities during the remaining 12 hours. The policy would also prohibit camping in parks, riverbanks, busy streets, and within 250 feet of schools, among other areas.
The policy is influenced by a 2021 state law that requires cities to establish “objectively reasonable” rules regarding sitting and lying outdoors on public property. This law is based on a federal ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Martin v. Boise, which prohibits arresting people for sleeping on public property unless adequate shelter is available. Portland’s proposed policy aims to meet the “objectively reasonable” standards outlined in the state law but has faced criticism from the ACLU of Oregon for not adequately considering the impact on people experiencing homelessness.
The new policy would enforce written warnings and potential penalties for violating the camping rules, including fines and possible jail time.
Rose Haven’s Director, Katie O’Brien, feels frustrated that the city never contacted her to alert her to this new proposal, let alone ask for her perspective.
“The challenge is that there is no communication with people on the ground level who understand this issue in ways that [the city doesn’t],” O’Brien said. “They’ve never asked or supported us in any way.”
O’Brien said she’s particularly worried how this ban will impact homeless women, a population that is disproportionately vulnerable to abuse while living outside. She said it’s common for women experiencing homelessness to sleep during the day and stay up at night to protect themselves from potential nighttime attacks.
“We have people who come to [Rose Haven] in the morning and immediately fall asleep on a couch since they’ve been up all night,” O’Brien said. “The [daytime camping] ban will make it harder for women to feel safe living outside.”
The proposed policy is expected to be approved by the Portland City Council, with several commissioners expressing support for the change. The policy is set to go into effect on July 1, 2023, the same day the state law takes effect.