Monday, January 04, 2010

Lawsuit due to Portland's anti-camping law

I received an interesting email about a recent lawsuit regarding Portland's (sic) anti-camping law. What follows below is the email I received today:


I haven't seen this reported anywhere yet, but:

City Council was supposed to vote on a class action lawsuit brought
against their anti-camping ordinance, which would have give $30,000 to
the plaintiffs and their lawyers, and clarified new rules for enforcing
the (draconian) policy.

It's not clear whether more work is being done, and if so who asked for
it, but it seems as if the rules being proposed (set up camps only after 9
PM, clean up by 7 AM) will just make things more confusing and complex for
people who already have no place else to go.

I've pasted in the "juicy parts" of the postponed ordinance and
accompanying documents below. As of this evening, you can still download
the .pdf at


From the Council item which was postponed on the City website:


This ordinance would settle a class action brought on behalf of homeless
individuals without shelter challenging the enforcement of the City's
anti-camping, temporary structures and park exclusion ordinances as

Individual plaintiffs allege that they were harmed and suffered the loss
of property in the past when they were told by police to move from the
public right of way. The settlement would provide seven individuals with
amounts between $200 and $500 for a total of $2,400 and $27,600 to the
Oregon Law Center for their attorneys fees on this case.

The plaintiffs sought an injunction from a court ruling that the City's
ordinances are illegal because there are no other alternative places for
many homeless people to sleep. In order to address this complaint, the
ordinance would authorize the City to enter into a settlement agreement
with the plaintiffs that sets out reasonable time and place restrictions
on when the camping and structures ordinances will be enforced and
provides a commitment that the City will continue with efforts to assist
with outreach and services for homeless residents of Portland.

It is the recommendation of Risk Management and the City Attorney's office
that this settlement be approved by ordinance in order to resolve the
lawsuit and clarify policies regarding when and where people can sleep on
public property

Non-monetary terms of settlement:

A. The City will condition any funding of homeless shelter capacity on the
contractual commitment of the shelter facility to allow meaningful access
to the shelter by housing outreach workers.

B. The City will not enforce its camping law (PCC 14A.50.020 or successor)
against persons who camp on public property or public rights of way that
are open to the public if they comply with the following rules:

a. A camp may not contain more than four people after 10:00 p.m.

b. A camp must be out of sight and earshot or more than 50 yards away from
any other camp.

c. Campers may not set up a campsite until 9:00 p.m.

d. A camp must be quiet after 10:00 p.m.

e. A camp must not cause any health or sanitation problems.

f. A camp must not draw significant complaints from neighbors.

g. A camp must be off the sidewalks and roadways and away from nighttime
high volume traffic areas.

h. A camp must be packed up and removed from the site by 7:00 a.m.

C. The City will not enforce its prohibition against the erection of
structures on public property (PCC 14A.50.050) against tents or other
structures designed for the primary and limited purpose of protecting
outdoor sleepers from the elements when the occupants of a campsite comply
with the rules set out in subsection B and no more than two sleeping
structures are present at a site.

D. The City will not enforce its camping law against people sleeping at
night in vehicles as long as they comply with the rules set out in
subsection B and the camp is limited to one vehicle and no more than two

E. The City agrees that it will not consider sleeping in a bedroll,
without more, to meet the definition of "camp" in PCC 14A50.020.

F. The City will conduct a pilot project to examine the feasibility and
benefits of providing storage to homeless people living on the street. The
City will issue a request for proposals for the creation and management of
two types of storage: one for documents and other small valuables and one
for larger items. The purpose of this effort will be to reduce the need
for homeless people to carry large amounts of personal property through
the community and reduce the potential for nuisances and conflicts with
the police over nuisance abatement. The City will endeavor to establish
storage capacity on both sides of the Willamette River. If the City is
able to find contractors willing to run the pilot project, it will fund
the project for at least two years. Continued operation will depend on
whether, in the City Council's judgment, the project proves to be
practical and politically viable.

G. The City will review and improve the procedures used during the
collection, storage and return of property found at campsites. The City
will endeavor to better connect property owners who are not present when
their property is taken with the process by which they can recover their
property. The City will document more carefully what is collected at
campsites and what is left behind or taken away as trash.

H. The City will continue with its effort to provide more public

I. The City will fund an outreach effort that is sufficient to
consistently make contact with aggregations of campers before they reach a
size of eight.

J. The City will not rouse non-obstructing, otherwise lawful sleepers
before 7:00 a.m.

K. The City will make these guidelines available to the public, and the
City's police officers will tell potential campers and outdoor sleepers
about these guidelines.


To read more information regarding the issue of homelessness and law enforcement I suggest the following website: