Class-action lawsuit filed against Portland amid homeless camp sweeps

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A class-action lawsuit against the city of Portland was filed Monday on behalf of four people experiencing homelessness, claiming the city and its partners do not keep personal belongings caught up during camping sweeps.

The lawsuit comes the same day as the city acted on recent changes to how its impact reduction team removes homeless camps.

Current Oregon law requires the city and its contractors, such as Rapid Response, to keep property left at a homeless camp for 30 days unless the property is useless or unsanitiary.

However, the lawsuit said its plaintiffs, who have been subjected to sweeps by the city in the last six months, were failed by the city in this and argues that this has caused the plaintiffs and others to have to buy new tents and other necessities to survive.

Mark Usher, one of the plaintiffs, was in a Laurelhurst Park sweep in February 2021 which resulted in him losing a pair of gloves that helped with a neuropathy issue resulting in pain in his hands, according to the lawsuit, which was filed by attorney Michael Fuller.

“Mr. Usher was told he that he had 20 minutes to move all of his belongings,” the lawsuit stated. “While Mr. Usher was getting the rest of his possessions from inside his tent, a Portland Police officer, without asking Mr. Usher’s permission, entered Mr. Usher’s tent and began using his feet to kick Mr. Usher’s belongings into a black plastic bag.”

Usher said he went to a warehouse to claim the gloves, which is when he discovered they were not inventoried as required by law, according to the lawsuit.

Furthermore, the lawsuit is asking the city how law enforcement will determine whether a criminal activity report in a camp is “credible,” which was one of the criteria announced last week by the city.

Fuller tells KOIN 6 News the law that protects against this isn’t being followed, and it’s important for the city to follow the law “because this is property being taken from the poorest among us. And you know, the law should protect everyone equally.”

“We had been hearing from folks on the street over the past several months that during these sweeps, they were being treated … rudely,” Fuller said. “They were having their property kicked around their property was being taken from them or thrown away when it shouldn’t have been.”

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A city spokesperson said they would not comment on pending litigation.

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