Thursday, October 08, 2009

Homeless in Portland

Portland Oregon September 2009

MAYOR SAM ADAMS is seeking feedback on elements of a new sidewalk management plan, which will replace the city's defunct and unconstitutional sit-lie law. Adams and City Commissioner Nick Fish told business leaders two weeks ago that they planned a new kind of sidewalk management package instead of another iteration of the sit-lie
["We Mean it This Time," News, Sept 17].

The new draft plan, posted on the mayor's website on Thursday, September 17, plans to align all city codes affecting sidewalk use in the same place, create a criminal zero-tolerance approach to illegal activity like offensive littering and harassment, improve homeless services, designate sidewalk through zones, establish a downtown retail strategy, and increase the number of restrooms available on the street.

"Portland has 4,804 miles of sidewalks, including 37,744 street corners; the Westside of downtown Portland alone comprises 152 miles of sidewalks and 1,778 corners," says Adams' website, explaining that a multitude of uses "must all share a sidewalk between five- and 15-feet wide."

So far, reactions among homeless advocates and those who have watch-dogged these issues since the city last passed a sit-lie law in 2007 have been mixed.
"If it's going to be something that's fair to everybody and used equally, then I'm okay with it," says Patrick Nolen from activist group Soapbox Under the Bridge. "The city needs to govern such things. My problem with the old law was it was used unequally against people experiencing homelessness."

Others are more skeptical.
"I think they're still grasping at straws, trying to find some way of telling people they can't sit, lie, or stand on a given area of the sidewalk," says Copwatch activist Dan Handelman. "They're trying to paint a happy face on what they've done before, but I doubt it will be enforced fairly."
The mayor hopes to have the new package approved by December at the latest.