PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A lawsuit filed against the City of Portland on Friday claims the city’s recent ordinance to ban daytime camping is “unreasonable, cruel and incomprehensible.”
The ordinance, passed by Portland City Council in July, bans camping in 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.
The suit filed by the Oregon Law Center on behalf of the city’s estimated 10,000 homeless residents claims the city’s ordinance carries out penalties that are “grossly out of proportion to the ‘offense’ of surviving outside.”
“On the street, victims of our failed housing and shelter policy face daily challenges to their survival including how to stay physically safe, cool, warm, and dry, how to stay connected with social services and medical providers, how and where to sleep, and how to find food,” the OLC claimed in the lawsuit.
The suit also claims the ban unreasonably forces people to pack up and disappear during the daytime – without any place designated for them to legally camp.
“The ordinance contains an incomprehensible list of places of which people cannot camp within 250 feet, and it provides no guidance as to where a person can engage in basic acts of survival like resting, sleeping or staying warm and dry during nighttime hours,” the OLC claimed in the lawsuit.
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.
As for shelter beds, the lawsuit claims there are fewer than 2,000 in the city, and service providers declare that finding shelter isn’t easy – even for them.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and other city leaders have yet to set a date for the ban’s enforcement, though they say enforcement efforts could begin sometime this fall after they explore options to expand day-use centers and add more temporary storage in the city.
Wheeler’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit on Friday afternoon but said they plan to enforce the ordinance in the coming weeks and will give two weeks’ notice.
The City of Portland also joined a request to review Supreme Court rulings that framed how governments could enforce homelessness laws, specifically targeting Martin v Boise and Johnson v Grants Pass.
According to Martin v Boise, cities cannot enforce criminal laws to prohibit people from sleeping in public places without a place for those people to go or stay. Another, Johnson v Grants Pass, ruled that cities could not criminalize using tents or cars for sleeping unless the government offers another sleeping option.
Portland City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez previously told KOIN 6 the rulings are why the city has yet to enforce the daytime camping ban since it passed.
“Portlanders are seeing zero progress as a result of it, zero impacts on the streets of Portland,” he said. “It’s because the city and mayor’s team are terrified of being sued.”