Portland City Council passed amendments to update existing public camping restriction policies. This ordinance puts the City of Portland in compliance with House Bill 3115 which was adopted by the Oregon Legislative Assembly in 2021. The updated code aims to provide reasonable time, place, and manner camping restrictions for those experiencing homelessness. Enforcement of the amended city code has also been updated and will be implemented through a phased-in approach beginning in late-July at the earliest.
“I want to thank my colleagues on the Portland City Council for passing these reasonable restrictions which are now codified in City Code,” said Mayor Wheeler. “The next few months will be focused on education and outreach – with an emphasis on ensuring the homelessness navigation outreach teams have clear and thorough information on this new ordinance. These reasonable restrictions, coupled with our work on increasing shelter availability along with access to services, are a step in the right direction toward a revitalized Portland.”
Time restrictions that prohibit day camping: The ordinance amends code to allow an involuntarily homeless person to camp in non-restricted areas between the hours of 8 pm and 8 am. After 8 am, the person must dismantle the campsite until 8 pm.
Place restrictions: The code changes specify several places where camping is always prohibited. Restrictions include, but are not limited to, the pedestrian use zone, 250 feet from a school or childcare center, in the public right-of-way along the High Crash Corridor, and City Parks.
Manner restrictions: Prohibitions include use of gas heaters in or around a campsite, obstructing access to a private property or business adjacent to the public right-of-way, alterations to the ground or infrastructure, environmental damage, and the accumulation or leaving behind garbage, debris, unsanitary hazardous materials, sewage, or drug paraphernalia.
Enforcement: The ordinance will be phased in using written warnings before someone is subject to criminal enforcement. If a person has been offered alternative access to shelter or housing, and they decline to use those alternatives, then they are prohibited from camping anywhere in the City because they have an alternative place to go. If a person does not have alternative access to shelter or housing because it is not available, then the person may camp if they follow the time, place, manner regulations implemented by the City. Those who do not adhere to the restrictions will receive two initial warnings (and education of the updated rules). The third violation will be subject to criminal enforcement with fines or jail time, though the DA's office will be focused on seeking alternative sentences, which the City fully supports. Enforcement of this ordinance is intended to be a tool to connect people with appropriate resources, while also addressing behavior that is damaging to our community.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Does this ordinance criminalize homelessness?
No, the ordinance amends existing City Code that prohibits camping along the public rights of way. The goal is to connect people with services not to impose punishment. Portlanders who are “involuntarily homeless” will not be cited if they adhere to the objectively reasonable ordinance restrictions.
For additional context, existing code prohibits camping on public property at all hours of the day and can fine those not in compliance with up to $100 in fines,and enforce with up to 30 days in jail (though this is not currently enforced). Because that code could potentially violate HB 3115, the City is updating its code to specify that camping on public property is only barred from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.—an “objectively reasonable” standard as allowed under HB 3115.
2. How will you determine who is “involuntarily homeless?”
The concept that someone may be “involuntarily homeless” comes directly from the Martin v. Boise decision and therefore it is the same concept for all 9th Circuit Court jurisdictions.
The ordinance will be phased in using a series of warnings before someone is subject to criminal enforcement. If a person has been offered alternative access to shelter or housing, and they decline to use those alternatives, then they are prohibited from camping anywhere in the City because they have an alternative place to go.
The City and County have an assortment of shelter options available with vacancies on a regular basis. The Mayor’s Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites, set to launch in the coming weeks, will house up to 200 homeless Portlanders at each location with the goal of connecting them to services. Similar models are also implemented in County shelter programs and Safe Rest Village models.
If a person does not have access to alternative shelter or housing because it is not available, then they meet the definition of “involuntarily homeless,” and the person may camp if they follow the time, place, manner regulations implemented by the City.
3. How will you inform Portlanders of these changes and who will perform outreach?
Changes will be implemented through a phased-in approach with a substantial education period preceding enforcement.
The Street Services Coordination Center (SSCC) and Impact Reduction Program (IRP) currently work with 25 outreach workers (and are actively hiring for additional staff), though this team only accounts for one component of the overall outreach process. The City of Portland works with hundreds of outreach workers available to help with outreach efforts. The expectation is for our partners at the City and County to work together with our public safety partners to educate and inform Portlanders of these changes. We may deploy additional city workers to help with education efforts.
4. What role will law enforcement play?
If our outreach teams come into contact with someone who is not in compliance with the ordinance, after the educational, phased-in period, we would coordinate with our public safety partners on next steps.
Mayor Wheeler’s team will convene a meeting with the City Attorney’s office, the Portland Police Bureau (including the new Police Training Dean and Training Division staff), outreach teams, and the Street Services Coordination Center to review the ordinance, discuss operations, and conduct training before enforcement begins.
5. Are you concerned about staffing restraints with the Portland Police Bureau?
The goal is to connect people with services not to impose punishment. When coordination with our public safety partners to ensure compliance of the ordinance is needed, we will work to use existing resources as best we can to respond. We are continuing to restaff, having great results in our recruiting efforts, and now need the legislature to approve funding to expand State Academy training capacity.
6. Will the City of Portland develop a map that helps outline where people can and/or cannot camp during restricted period?
Yes, our teams are working to develop materials that will help provide clarity on where people cannot set up unsanctioned campsites during 8pm-8am.
7. How did you determine the details of this ordinance? Did you consult with community-based partners, especially providers who manage day shelters?
Mayor Wheeler and his staff regularly meet with stakeholders, community-based organizations and providers. We have held numerous meetings on this ordinance. Their input was taken into consideration as these amendments were drafted.
8. Are you concerned about the legality of this ordinance?
We believe this approach is legally sound and that these measures are necessary at this time.
9. Where can Portlanders store additional items during the day?
Portlanders can keep their belongings with them and/or utilize complimentary day storage containers. These facilities are staffed and open—and often underutilized. Additionally, we are looking at opening more day storage facilities and working with those running already operational day centers to increase capacity and services.
10. What about Portlanders with disabilities or elderly populations who may have a more difficult time complying with these changes?
We expect these groups to be one of the primary focuses for outreach and services through the City and County. This is also one of the reasons the phased approach will focus first on education and outreach.
Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites and Safe Rest Villages specifically accommodate partners, pets, and are ADA accessible for these specific concerns. They have been/are being designed with accessibility in mind.
11. How does this ordinance relate to the recently approved American with Disabilities Act (ADA) settlement with the City of Portland?
The time/place/manner ordinance incorporates language from the ADA settlement, and they are not in conflict. Some components of the ADA settlement agreement are already being implemented; others will begin to be implemented on July 1, 2023.
The time/place/manner City Code change will be implemented starting 30 days after passage (with time for phasing in based on education, outreach, etc.). They will work in conjunction, but do not require each other to be implemented.
12. How does this ordinance impact Mayor Wheeler’s overall homeless priorities?
Mayor Wheeler’s goal is to eliminate the need for unsanctioned camping in the City of Portland. Vulnerable populations need to be connected to services via City and County shelter sites that will ultimately guide them into permanent housing. The Mayor and his team are steadfastly focused on developing these opportunities through Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites, Safe Rest Villages, County-led programs, and supporting our community-based partners.
Source: Portland Mayor's Office