Oregon mayor wants to ban homeless camps on Portland streets

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon mayor plans to ban camping on Portland’s streets and move homeless people to city-designated campgrounds as growing homelessness has become a top concern for the vast majority of residents .

“The scale and depth of the homeless crisis in our city is tantamount to a humanitarian catastrophe,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said Friday. “We need to bring our dispersed, vulnerable, homeless population closer to the services they need.”

The resolution calls for at least three large, designated outdoor campgrounds to be established, with the first opening within 18 months of funding being secured. Wheeler did not specify when funding will be confirmed or how much the measure will cost.

The designated campgrounds could initially accommodate up to 125 people and provide access to services such as food, sanitation, garbage collection and treatment for mental health and substance abuse, Wheeler said. The locations could eventually be expanded to 500 people.

Oregon’s homeless crisis has been fueled by housing shortages, the coronavirus pandemic and high rates of drug addiction.

More than 3,000 people are homeless in Portland, a 50% increase from 2019, and there are more than 700 encampments across the city, Wheeler said.

The resolution is one of several Wheeler plans to introduce to City Council next week to address the city’s homelessness and affordable housing crisis.

As part of the measures, social workers would direct people camping on the streets to the city’s designated campgrounds. Police could issue subpoenas if they refuse to leave, but the subpoenas could be waived under a “service diversion program” that would allow people subpoenaed for minor offenses such as camping ban violations to go mental health or substance abuse treatment instead of jail.

“We want to guide people to the help they need to get off the streets and stay off it. That’s the goal,” Wheeler said.


Rush is a corps member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover undercover topics. Follow Rush on Twitter. Oregon mayor wants to ban homeless camps on Portland streets

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