SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — The Senate Human Services and Early Childhood Committee held a public hearing Thursday over a bill that would support the Right to Rest Act, or what some people are calling, the Homeless Bill of Rights.
The Right to Rest Act supports human basic rights, according to the bill’s chief sponsor, Oregon State Senator Chip Shields.
Officially, Senate Bill 629 would ensure it’s legal for those who are homeless to sit, sleep or eat in public places, as long as it’s in an unobstructive manner.
“It’s horrible that we’re talking about defending somebody’s right to sit down in public space, but that’s where we’ve gotten to at this point,” Paul Boden with the Western Regional Advocacy Project said.
Supporters argued these things are necessary for survival. Those without a home shouldn’t be given a ticket or arrested because they don’t have a place to live. They also said citations and arrests make it more difficult for the homeless to get housing and jobs.
Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa spoke out against the bill at Thursday’s public hearing at the Oregon State Capitol. She said it would enable homelessness instead of encouraging people to work with social service programs.
“This bill, pretty much anybody can say if they’re homeless then the police will have to back off and they would be able to sleep, camp, lie anywhere in a public place in our parks, in our parking lots, any place that is public,” Mayor Konopa said. “It’s just a very poorly written bill.”
The Western Regional Advocacy Project is pushing for similar bills in other states including California and Colorado. The group said too much money is being spent in Oregon on enforcing what it calls “anti-homeless” laws instead of permanent affordable housing.
They believe SB 629 will help change that.
“If we can be forced to disappear by throwing us in jail, or chasing us out of town, then maybe we can all start working together to restore the federal funding that was cut because we all know that’s what created the problem in the first place,” Boden said.
KOIN 6 News will be following this story and will provide updates as new information becomes available.