Portland Considers Ban on Homeless Camps To Address 'Humanitarian Catastrophe'

Homeless camp tents in northeast Portland (Wikimedia Commons)
June 1, 2023

Portland, Ore., may bar homeless people from camping in public spaces during the daytime as it struggles to address the crisis of people living on its streets.

If the proposal, suggested by Democratic mayor Ted Wheeler, is put in place, homeless people will have to clean up camp between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The ban would apply to public parks, some sidewalks, and areas near schools and daycares. Violators would get three warnings before facing a fine of $100 or time in jail. Wheeler called the homeless crisis a "humanitarian catastrophe."

"There are currently hundreds of unsanctioned, sometimes dangerous and often squalid homeless camps across all 146 square miles of the city of Portland," Wheeler said Wednesday. The number of people who are homeless in Oregon increased by more than 20 percent between 2020 and 2022.

The proposal comes days after Portland agreed to remove homeless tents from sidewalks after the city was sued by disabled residents who said the homeless encampments violate "their right to equal access to sidewalks."

Portland activists called the proposal "a punch to the gut."

"Asking homeless Portlanders … to carry their homes on their backs for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, will heighten mental and physical distress, hitting houseless and front-line workers like a punch to the gut," said Sandra Comstock, executive director of Hygiene4All, which advocates for "unsheltered" people.

The proposal comes as businesses continue to flee the city due to rising crime. REI, coffee shops, Cracker Barrel, and myriad other businesses have left.

The city, meanwhile, is giving millions of dollars to "anti-racist" groups that won't say what they'll do with the money.

Published under: Homelessness , Portland