Facing Lawsuit, Portland Agrees To Crack Down on Homeless Camps

A 2020 protest camp in Portland, Ore. / Getty Images
May 26, 2023

Portland, Ore., has agreed to remove homeless tents and debris from sidewalks after residents sued the city for violating the federal Americans with Disabilities and Rehabilitation Acts.

Ten residents sued the city in September, saying the homeless encampments violate "their right to equal access to sidewalks." Portland, which has long allowed homeless people to congregate on the sidewalks, on Thursday reached a settlement with the plaintiffs that will see the city commit to removing at least 500 camps, local news station KGW8 reported.

In recent years, Portland has allowed homeless camps to grow, coinciding with a crime spike that has led the city to hemorrhage businesses. Portland's only REI store and a local coffee shop recently announced their closures, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

The REI store is closing, a spokeswoman said, because crime is "overwhelming [security] systems in place" even after company representatives met with Mayor Ted Wheeler (D.) over safety concerns.

Under the terms of the Thursday agreement, the city will "establish a 24-hour sidewalk camp reporting option," discontinue providing "tents or tarps to homeless residents," post "no camping" signs, and pay plaintiffs' damages and attorneys' fees.

A federal court and the Portland City Council still need to approve the settlement.

Portland is far from the only progressive city seeing unchecked crime and public drug use. In San Francisco, which similarly fails to address homelessness, more than 80 percent of residents say they don't feel safe on public transit, the Free Beacon reported. San Diego, meanwhile, is considering buying hotels to house its enormous homeless population.

While Wheeler says he wants to crack down on homeless camps, other Democrats disagree. Former San Francisco district attorney candidate John Hamasaki said in March that rampant crime, public drug use, and vagrancy are just part of "basic city life," going so far as to mock someone whose laptop was stolen.