PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The fate of the city’s daytime camping ban will be heard in court Thursday, Nov. 9 when a judge decides whether to temporarily block the ban from going into effect.
The camping ban is expected to go into effect on Monday, but has already impacted service providers, who say they are already at capacity. One shelter, Rose Haven, said people are afraid of their belongings being swept with no place to go during the day.
The impending decision follows a lawsuit from the Oregon Law Center that represented people who are homeless. A judge will hear arguments from them Thursday morning about whether the camping ban should be temporarily blocked until a full trial can be conducted.
In June, Portland City Council passed an ordinance to ban camping near public places from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It also forbids camping near parks, docks, schools and construction zones. Those found violating the ban could be subject to a $100-dollar fine or 30 days in jail.
Since then, Development Director Liz Starke said Rose Haven has gotten especially busy.
“We’ve kind of turned into first responders, but that’s really not what our mission is,” she said. “We’re a community center.”
On Tuesday, the day shelter for women and children served a record 175 people. Starke believes Portland’s announcement of the camping ban and its pending enforcement are part of the reason why.
“As soon as they announced the camping ban, they didn’t really have to enforce it,” she said. “Word is on the streets and people are scared. So we are dealing with increased escalation, just really severe mental health needs because folks are afraid that their stuff is going to be thrown away.
The lawsuit alleged that the ordinance is impossible to understand and the city hasn’t provided useful guidance on where people can camp.
The city has handed out informational packets telling people where they cannot camp during the daytime ban, but the suit says there’s little-to-no information about where people may otherwise go.
A map exists online, but OLC claims it directs people to private property where they are subject to trespassing.
And while the city does not comment on pending litigation, Portland attorneys said in a legal response that the lawsuit makes the ordinance appear more restrictive than it is.
The city and Multnomah County have allocated more than $3 million from the Supportive Housing Tax so people can store their belongings during the day, but Starke says there are not enough of those places for everyone who is homeless in the city.
Plus, she said it’s not easy for service providers to expand – especially Rose Haven, which tripled its capacity in 2022.
“We need more temporary shelter, we need more wraparound services, but we certainly need more daytime services if it is not legal to be in one place,” Starke said.