Portland, Oregon, to clear sidewalk tents to settle suit with people with disabilities

May 25, 2023, 1:42 PM | Updated: Jun 2, 2023, 1:06 pm

FILE - Tents line the sidewalk on SW Clay St in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 9, 2020. Portland will remo...

FILE - Tents line the sidewalk on SW Clay St in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 9, 2020. Portland will remove tents blocking sidewalks under a tentative settlement announced Thursday, May 25, 2023, in a lawsuit brought by people with disabilities who said sprawling homeless encampments prevent them from navigating Oregon's most populous city. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland will remove tents blocking sidewalks under a tentative settlement announced Thursday in a lawsuit brought by people with disabilities who said sprawling homeless encampments prevent them from navigating Oregon’s most populous city.

The federal class action lawsuit, filed in September, alleged that the city violated the American with Disabilities Act by allowing tents to obstruct sidewalks. The plaintiffs included a caretaker and nine people with disabilities who use wheelchairs, scooters, canes and walkers to get around. The settlement still requires approval from the City Council and the U.S. District Court in Portland.

The settlement comes as City Council prepares to consider new restrictions on camping. The updates to the city’s camping code would ban camping between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. in many locations, including sidewalks. Mayor Ted Wheeler plans to present the ordinance Wednesday. The City Council previously voted in November to gradually ban street camping and create at least six large, designated campsites where homeless people will be allowed to camp.

Under the tentative lawsuit settlement, the city must prioritize removing tents that block sidewalks and clear at least 500 sidewalk-blocking encampments every year for the next five years. If there are fewer than 500 such campsites in a given year, the city will be found to be in compliance if it clears all that are blocking sidewalks.

The city must operate a 24-hour hotline for reporting tents that are blocking sidewalks and create an online reporting portal where people can upload photos. It will create a publicly accessible database of reported campsites and actions taken in response.

Portland will also limit its distribution of tents to homeless people and post “no camping” signs in areas where sidewalks are frequently blocked.

“People with disabilities deserve to use transportation corridors to pursue their daily activities unimpeded,” one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, John DiLorenzo, said in an email, adding that he was hopeful the settlement would make it easier for people with disabilities to navigate the city.

Under the tentative deal, the city will not admit wrongdoing or liability.

The settlement is expected to be presented to the City Council next week.

“I strongly believe that everyone should have access to sidewalks to navigate the City safely, and this is especially true for Portlanders with mobility challenges,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said in an emailed statement. “The settlement that will come before Council next week will help prioritize the City’s efforts to ensure accessibility to sidewalks.”

The plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit described how unnavigable sidewalks complicate their lives and sometimes put them in harm’s way.

Among them is Steve Jackson, who is legally blind and uses a cane to walk. He said tents prevent him from navigating the sidewalk and accessing bus stops.

“Often there’s tents blocking the entire sidewalk, where I don’t see them because they weren’t there the day before, and I hit the tent and then people are mad at me and think I’m attacking them,” Jackson said during a news conference in September.

About 13% of Portlanders live with a disability, according to the lawsuit, including 6% with mobility impairments and 2.4% with visual impairments.

The city must devote at least $8 million in the 2023-2024 fiscal year to making sure the conditions of the settlement are met, and at least $3 million annually for the following four fiscal years, according to a copy of the settlement shared with reporters by DiLorenzo. It has also agreed to pay $5,000 to each of the 10 plaintiffs and reasonable attorney fees.

Oregon’s homelessness crisis has been fueled by an affordable housing shortage, a lack of mental health treatment, high drug addiction rates and the coronavirus pandemic.

In Multnomah County, home to Portland, there were more than 5,000 people experiencing homelessness in 2022 — a 30% increase compared with 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to federal point-in-time count data.

____

This story has been updated to correct the number designated homeless campsites approved by the Portland City Council. The Council approved the creation of six such campsites.

___

Claire 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.

United States News

The Connecticut State Capitol building is seen in Hartford, Conn., Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. Connecticu...

Associated Press

Connecticut to adjourn largely bipartisan session in contrast to rancor in other states

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly passed protections for abortion providers and gave more power to libraries facing book challenges — and they did it with Republican support. All but 13 Republicans voted for the major gun control bill that’s already being challenged in court. Bucking the partisan rancor seen in other legislatures […]

18 hours ago

Associated Press

6 arrested in alleged scheme to fraudulently collect millions in COVID aid meant for renters

SEATTLE (AP) — Six people from Washington, Arizona and Texas have been arrested and accused of fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars of COVID-19 aid from an assistance program meant for renters, federal prosecutors said. U.S. Attorney Nick Brown, Western District of Washington, on Wednesday announced the arrests and charges of wire fraud and money laundering. […]

18 hours ago

Associated Press

2 Connecticut officers fired over treatment of man paralyzed in police van after 2022 arrest

The City of New Haven, Connecticut, fired two police officers Wednesday for what authorities called their reckless actions and lack of compassion toward Richard “Randy” Cox, who was injured and became paralyzed in the back of a police van after his arrest last year. City police commissioners voted to dismiss Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera […]

18 hours ago

President Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in...

Associated Press

Biden vetoes bill to cancel student debt relief

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have canceled his plan to forgive student debt. The measure had been pushed by Republicans, but it garnered a handful of Democratic votes in the Senate as well. “It is a shame for working families across the country that lawmakers continue to pursue […]

18 hours ago

Associated Press

Grand jury indicts 2 Bureau of Prisons employees in inmate’s death

PETERSBURG, Va. (AP) — A grand jury has indicted two federal Bureau of Prisons employees for allegedly failing to provide medical care for an inmate in Virginia who had a serious medical emergency and later died, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. Lt. Shronda Covington, 47, and registered nurse Tonya Farley, 52, face charges of allegedly […]

18 hours ago

FILE - Mohamed, a 19-year-old fleeing political persecution in the northwest African country of Mau...

Associated Press

New York City sues 30 counties over ‘xenophobic’ orders banning migrant relocations

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City sued nearly half the state’s counties Wednesday over their attempts to keep out international migrants, the latest escalation in an ongoing battle between city officials and local leaders. The suit, filed in state court Wednesday, accuses at least 30 New York counties of seeking to “wall off their […]

18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

SANDERSON FORD

Thank you to Al McCoy for 51 years as voice of the Phoenix Suns

Sanderson Ford wants to share its thanks to Al McCoy for the impact he made in the Valley for more than a half-decade.

...

Desert Institute for Spine Care

Spinal fusion surgery has come a long way, despite misconceptions

As Dr. Justin Field of the Desert Institute for Spine Care explained, “we've come a long way over the last couple of decades.”

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...

Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.

Portland, Oregon, to clear sidewalk tents to settle suit with people with disabilities