Portland Rolls Back Sidewalk Camping Ban It Didn’t Enforce Anyway

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June 8, 2023

The Portland, Ore., City Council voted Wednesday to ban camping on city property during the daytime, revising previous laws that had prohibited camping at all times in order to comply with state legislation set to go into effect next month.

The ordinance prohibits camping on public property, including parks and sidewalks, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, and bans blocking access to private businesses and private property. It also prohibits camping near schools, parks, and officially sanctioned homeless shelters at all times. If someone violates this ordinance three times, they could be forced to pay a $100 fine or face prison time for up to 30 days.

The city had previously barred camping on all public property, likely violating a state law passed in 2021, which requires cities to create "objectively reasonable" guidelines about what people can do on public property. Portland city attorneys believe the new ordinance will meet the requirements of the 2021 law, which goes into effect July 1, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. Under the previous ordinance, homelessness increased by over 50 percent between 2019 and 2022.

The ordinance sparked contentious debate at a city council meeting last week. Mayor Ted Wheeler contended that the restrictions were necessary to address the homelessness crisis, which he called a "humanitarian catastrophe."

In May, the city agreed to remove at least 500 camps after facing a lawsuit from residents who claimed that the city’s failure to remove the camps had violated their rights to access the sidewalk under the Americans with Disabilities and Rehabilitation Acts.

Several businesses, including REI, Cracker Barrel, and others have closed locations in Portland in the past year.