PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the city prepares to make decisions on a number of issues surrounding homelessness — including changes to the camping ordinance and a renewal of the contract with the county for the Joint Office of Homeless Services — those who serve the homeless community believe there will be a major impact on how they’re able to provide services.

Blanchet House serves the community year-round and says that work didn’t stop on Memorial Day as they are open for all meals, thanks to the work of staff and volunteers. However, the mayor’s proposed camping ordinance could change how they continue those meal services in the future.

One common site around Portland lately — the unhoused in tents or out on the sidewalks or grass, sleeping during the day. Blanchet House says there’s a reason for it.

A homeless person sleeps on a Portland sidewalk, May 2023 (KOIN)
A homeless person sleeps on a Portland sidewalk, May 2023 (KOIN)

“It’s definitely true, especially for women who are unsheltered and living on the street and in camps,” said Scott Kerman, executive director of Blanchet House. “They will often sleep during the day because as you might imagine, it can be scary to sleep at night. We hear all kinds of stories about how people are attacked at night, attacked in their tents.”

That’s something that could soon change with Mayor Wheeler’s proposed camping ordinance changes that would ban unsanctioned camping between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., along with other restrictions.

Kerman says another part of their daily services and expanded dining room is to allow people to bring their carts and bikes in so they can relax while eating and have some of their belongings with them. If daytime camping bans are approved, that may mean more belongings coming in, as the facility also works to serve all of those in need.

“We expect this is going to have a huge impact on our services. We’re already at capacity in terms of what we’re doing and meeting the need in our community,” said Kerman.

Following the ordinance announcement, Mayor Wheeler called the unsanctioned camps a “humanitarian catastrophe” and says the goal is to get people to services and shelter.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, May 25, 2023 (KOIN)
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, May 25, 2023 (KOIN)

“Enforcement of this ordinance is intended to be a tool to connect people with appropriate resources while also addressing behavior that is damaging to our community,” Wheeler said on Thursday when announcing the ordinance proposal.

Kerman says as the city looks to resources like public libraries and day service shelters like Blanchet House during the ordinance’s time and place restrictions, he hopes they also help those organizations have what they need to expand how they serve.

“I think certainly if we’re going to be part of the solution, we’re going to be asking the city for some help,” said Kerman. “We just want to make sure in whatever direction our community goes, that we have what we need to help people survive.”

The camping ordinance will be heard by the city council on Wednesday. If approved, it could go into effect starting July 1.