PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland's city council voted Wednesday to pass an ordinance prohibiting camping during daytime hours in most public places as it, like other places in the U.S., struggles to address a longtime homelessness crisis.
The 3-1 vote changes city code to say that people may camp in nonrestricted areas from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., but after that they must dismantle the site until the permitted overnight hours begin again.
The ordinance also bans camping entirely near schools, parks and busy streets among other locations.
Business and property owners were among those who backed the ordinance, saying campsites are causing them to lose customers and creating safety issues. Advocates for homeless people said it will further burden them, heightening mental and physical distress.
Portland has already prohibited camping on city property at all hours. But that measure has rarely been enforced and could be found to violate a state law that takes effect July 1.
The new law codifies a 2018 federal court ruling that bars local governments from arresting people for sleeping outside when not enough shelter is available but does allow “objectively reasonable” limits on where, when and how campsites can be set up.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, who introduced the measure passed Wednesday, thanked councilmembers in an evening statement, saying the restrictions along with efforts to increase shelter availability and services are a step toward a revitalized Portland.
“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," Wheeler said.
Wheeler and Commissioners Dan Ryan and Rene Gonzalez voted for the measure, while Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who was out of town, did not vote but expressed support in a statement, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Commissioner Carmen Rubio voted no.
Rubio said the city should not have approved the measure until it builds more shelter sites, expands capacity at places where people find food, services and shelter, and trains police on how to enforce the new rules in a dignified manner.
“I need to make sure this ordinance does not cause harm,” Rubio said.
Portland has a shortage of shelter beds but plans to open city-regulated outdoor camping areas with the first set for this summer.
The ordinance will be implemented in phases with enforcement that could begin in late July, Wheeler said.
Violators would receive a warning the first two times, followed by penalties of fines of up to $100 or as many as 30 days in jail. Wheeler said prosecutions will focus on alternative sentences that connect people with resources.