PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Homeless advocates taking on the city of Portland earned a victory with the settlement of a lawsuit dealing with 2 major changes to how sweeps are conducted.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of people swept from Laurelhurst Park, claimed the city took 10 days to clean up the camp after first posting a written notice. The suit claimed that meant people never really left the camp or packed up their things
The lawsuit did not seek any money, just “equitable and injunctive relief.” That means the city’s policy needed to change.
As a result of the settlement, the government must give a written notied and tell people in the camp 12 hours or one day before a cleanup.
This settlement represents a real victory by the plaintiffs in compelling the City of Portland to follow the law and to make it clear to people impacted by sweeps how and when it will carry them out,” said Franz Bruggemeier, attorney with the Oregon Justice Resource Center
The second change stops the city contractors doing the cleanup from indiscriminately throwing away people’s belongings in a camp. They must clearly mark what is not trash and tell people where to pick it up.
This does not mean an end to sweeps or the constant trauma and harms that come with those removals. And it doesn’t solve homelessness; only housing can. But we hope it will provide clarity to those living outside in public to better be able to reduce some of the harms of being removed from the places they are living.” Bruggemeier said in a statement.
During his State of the City address last week, Mayor Ted Wheeler highlighted his efforts to ramp up the homeless camp cleanups.
“Portlanders reach out to my office every single day to express their concern and frustration around homelessness,” Wheeler said last week.
“My emergency orders streamlined existing city efforts, which allowed us to triple the number of dangerous campsite removals. We are now removing 30 campsites per week.”
In February, no more than 17 camps were removed in a given week. Last week 50 camps were removed. That was the third consecutive week more than 30 camps were cleared.
The city’s Street Services Coordination Center said they were pleased to change its policy as a result of the settlement.
“The City was pleased to update its policies on handling personal property as part of the City’s ongoing campsite cleanup and removal program. The amended policy incorporates some suggestions that will provide more transparency, clarity, and predictability to all involved. Some changes will help City staff perform their work more effectively. We’re very pleased with this outcome.” said Heather Hafer, the communications strategist for the Impact Reduction Program in the SSCC.