November 2000 Issue of street roots

Camping still banned in Portland

Portland Police continue to enforce the camping ban despite a circuit court ruling finding it unconstitutional

by Remona Cowles
staff writer

Since Multnomah County Judge Gallagher ruled Portland's Anti-Camping Ordinance unconstitutional on September 27, many people have been surprised to learn that the ordinance is still in effect. It is not certain what all the implications of Judge Gallagher's ruling are, but what is certain is that Mayor Vera Katz was not satisfied with Judge Gallagher's ruling and has asked that the Public Defender's Office file an appeal on behalf of the state. It may be six months before a final ruling on the appeal is made.

Judge Gallagher's ruling did not remove the ordinance from the City's books. The ruling does set a precedence for future use by any individual fighting a ticket issued for camping in Portland, but it does not guarantee that other Judges will rule similarly.

Bruce Prunk, Assistant Chief of the Portland Police Bureau, stated in an interview with The Oregonian, "We have not used the illegal camping ordinance since the judge's decision." But, despite the Assistant Chief's statement, the ordinance is currently being enforced on the street. In addition, homeless people are being discriminately targeted for trespassing, loitering, jay-walking, littering, park exclusions and other miscellaneous regulations as promised by the Mayor.

In response to advocates calling for more humane treatment of homeless people, who must sleep despite the ordinance, the Mayor has allocated $120,000 to increase outreach efforts to homeless people. However, emergency shelters and transitional and low-income housing programs are already full to the limit. Without additional beds and units, outreach workers have nowhere to house the additional people they would servečessentially creating another harried social worker competing for the quickly disappearing resources.

Meanwhile, homeless people will continue to receive criminal records for sleeping within the city limits of Portland, creating further barriers to obtaining the scarce affordable units that are available, and increasing the effort required by outreach and other workers to assist people in finding homes.

The City's approach to low-income affordable housing is muddled. Mayor Katz and City Commissioner Erik Sten announced their intent to spend $3.5 million of the $5 million allocated for affordable housing in the coming year on housing for those in the 0-30 percent median-income range. At the same time, Portland's Planning Commission is considering a proposal that would begin gentrification of another Portland neighborhood, the West End. The West End is a neighborhood currently housing 62% of Portland's very low-income people.

Stating that the City of Portland has committed nearly $270 million toward affordable housing over the last seven years, the Mayor continues to avoid the question: $270 million toward housing affordable to whom?

You can reach Remona at street roots at (503) 228-5657 or email

To contact the Mayor, write or call her office at:
Mayor Vera Katz
1221 SW 4th Av., Rm. 340
Portland, Oregon 97204
(503) 823-4120

Know Your Rights!

You cannot be given a trespassing ticket just for sitting, camping, or using a sidewalk or other public area. Trespassing tickets can only be issued for being on private property or state-owned property not open to the public. In the case of private property, you cannot be given a ticket without the property owner filing a complaint, except for properties that have a trespass agreement with the city. In either case, trespassing tickets cannot be given to anyone who hasn't been first given the opportunity to leave the area.

Park Exclusions:
In public parks, you can only be excluded if you have violated a law or park rule.

—Karen Gilmore
Oregon Legal Aid Office

Karen Gilmore of Legal Aid has announced that she is interested in hearing from anyone receiving violations for these offenses:

Park exclusion
Drug or prostitution exclusions

She can be reached at:

Legal Aid of Oregon
700 SW Taylor, 3rd floor
Portland, Oregon
(503) 471-1127