Oregon mayor to ban homeless camps on Portland streets

Oct 21, 2022, 3:20 PM | Updated: 7:42 pm

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The mayor of Portland, Oregon, plans to ban camping on city streets and move unhoused people to designated campsites, as the growing homeless population has become the top concern for the vast majority of residents.

“The magnitude and the depth of the homeless crisis in our city is nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said Friday. “We need to move our scattered, vulnerable homeless population closer to the services that they need.”

The resolution would establish at least three large, designated outdoor camping sites, with the first opening within 18 months of securing funding. Wheeler didn’t specify when the funding would be confirmed or how much the measure would cost.

The designated camping sites would initially be able to serve up to 125 people and would provide access to services such as food, hygiene, litter collection and treatment for mental health and substance abuse, Wheeler said. The sites could eventually serve 500 people.

Oregon’s homelessness crisis has been fueled by a housing shortage, the coronavirus pandemic and drug addiction.

More than 3,000 people are living without shelter in Portland, a 50% jump from 2019, and there are more than 700 encampments across the city, Wheeler said.

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

Under the measures, social workers would direct people camping on the street to the city’s designated camping sites. Police could arrest or cite people if they refuse to leave, Wheeler said. But the citations could be waived as part of a “services diversion program” that would allow people cited for low-level offenses, such as violating the camping ban, to receive mental health or substance abuse treatment instead of jail time.

Scott Kerman, executive director of Blanchet House, a Portland nonprofit that provides social services for people experiencing homelessness, said the plan “has some positive elements” but that “there remain a lot of unanswered questions and unknown details,” particularly regarding the enforcement provision. Some unhoused people are resistant to living in large group environments due to previous negative experiences, he said.

“We’re serving people that even in the most extreme winter and summer weather conditions will not seek out emergency shelter because they have such PTSD and anxiety about congregate shelter,” Kerman told The Associated Press in a phone interview, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder. “They have felt unsafe in those environments. They may have even been victimized in those environments.”

Kerman also expressed concern that the criminal justice and mental health systems, already overwhelmed in Oregon, may buckle under the added strain amid a shortage of hospital staff, psychiatric beds and public defenders.

“Our state hospital, our local hospitals, our county jails are already filled past capacity with people on mental health holds who are in the criminal justice system,” he said.

A federal judge ruled last month that the Oregon State Hospital must limit the amount of time it can hold patients charged with crimes, in a bid to create space at the overcrowded facility for criminal defendants who need mental health treatment but are housed in jails.

Meanwhile, an ongoing public defender shortage due to workload, poor pay and late payments prompted criminal defendants to sue the state this year, saying it is violating their constitutional right to legal counsel and a speedy trial.

The Portland City Council declared a state of emergency on homelessness in 2015 and has extended it five times since then. The measure, set to expire in 2025, reduces the bureaucratic hurdles surrounding the creation of homeless shelters.

This year alone, Wheeler has issued four emergency declarations to address homelessness issues. Most recently in August, he expanded a declaration that prohibits camping along high-speed corridors such as highways to include key walking routes to K-12 schools.


Rush is a corps member for 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 report on undercovered issues. Follow Rush on Twitter.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 in New York. Pfizer reports their e...
Associated Press

Pfizer tops 4Q expectations, starts low with 2023 forecast

COVID-19 vaccine booster shots and treatments for the virus helped push Pfizer to a better-than-expected final quarter of 2022. The drugmaker also debuted on Tuesday a 2023 forecast that starts off well below Wall Street forecasts. In the recently completed fourth quarter, Pfizer booked nearly half of its $24.29 billion in revenue from its top-selling […]
6 hours ago
FILE - An exit sign is shown at a McDonald's restaurant in Pittsburgh on Saturday, April 23, 2022. ...
Associated Press

Adult Happy Meals, McRib, feed McDonald’s sales in Q4

Adult Happy Meals and other limited-time promotions boosted traffic at McDonald’s restaurants during the fourth quarter despite higher prices. Global same-store sales __ or sales at stores open at least a year __ rose 12.6% in the October-December period, the Chicago company said Tuesday. That beat all Street expectations for an 8.8% increase, according to […]
6 hours ago
A tanker pulls into an ExxonMobil fuel storage and distribution facility in Irving, Texas, Wednesda...
Associated Press

Exxon profits at record high in 2022 as energy prices soared

NEW YORK (AP) — Exxon Mobil posted record annual profits in 2022 as Americans struggled with high prices for gasoline, home heating and consumer goods. The oil giant brought in $12.75 billion in profits in the fourth quarter, bringing annual profits to $55.7 billion. That exceeded Exxon’s previous annual record of $45.22 billion in annual […]
6 hours ago
FILE - the logo of ASML, a leading maker of semiconductor production equipment, hangs on the head o...
Associated Press

China lobbies Dutch to defend trade after chip curbs

BEIJING (AP) — China’s foreign minister appealed to his Dutch counterpart to defend free trade after the Netherlands and Japan agreed to cooperate with U.S. restrictions on Chinese access to advanced processor chip technology due to security concerns. The foreign ministry gave no indication Tuesday whether Qin Gang directly addressed the controls in the phone […]
6 hours ago
The building of Adani Corporate House is seen in Ahmedabad, India, Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. Shares in...
Associated Press

Adani $2.5B share sale pushes through amid fraud claims

NEW DELHI (AP) — The closely watched $2.5 billion share sale launched by Asia’s richest man, Gautam Adani, was fully subscribed on Tuesday, bucking expectations after a turbulent week in which the conglomerate’s shares plunged in a tussle with a U.S. short-seller. Before trading closed on Tuesday, over 100% of shares in the Indian group’s […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Millennial Money: 6 ways to move out of your parents’ house

Nearly a quarter of millennials (22%) are living with their parents, and more than half of those living with them (55%) made the move in 2022, according to a December survey from PropertyManagement.com. Many said they’re back home due to high rent, money concerns or job losses — and 9 in 10 say they would […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Oregon mayor to ban homeless camps on Portland streets