Stop the war against the poor

Mailing campaign fires shots at camping ordinance

May 2, 2003 issue of street roots
By genny nelson
contributing writer

Do you know that more than 1,600 people sleep on the streets in Portland on any given night? A Street Count on April 22, 2002, found 1,672 people sleeping outside.

This is in addition to 370 year-round emergency shelter beds for single men and women dealing with homelessness. (Information Sheet on Homelessness in Portland (FY 2001-02) from the Bureau Of Housing And Community Development) And do you know that Portland's anti-camping ordinance makes it illegal to sleep outside in public spaces even when there is no other available option?

Part of the ordinance states:

14. A. 50.020 Camping Prohibited on Public Property and Public Rights of Way.

A. As used in this Section:

1. "To camp" means to set up, or to remain in or at a campsite, for the purpose of establishing or maintaining a temporary place to live.

2. "Campsite" means any place where any bedding, sleeping bag, or other sleeping matter, or any stove or fire is placed, established, or maintained, whether or not such place incorporates the use of any tent, lean-to, shack, or any other structure, or any vehicle or part thereof.

B. It is unlawful for any person to camp in or upon any public property or public right of way, unless otherwise specifically authorized by this code or by declaration by the mayor in emergency circumstances.

C. The violation of this section is punishable, upon conviction, by a fine of not more than $100 or by imprisonment for a period not to exceed 30 days or both.

Please join crossroads, a homeless people's organization, in writing Mayor Vera Katz and urging her to repeal Portland's anti-camping ordinance. When any law unjustly penalizes our fellow citizens simply for trying to survive, the real crime is to enforce it. It behooves the city to seek a solution that better serves the needs of all concerned parties. Crossroads, currently a community organizing project of Sisters Of The Road Cafe Inc., has enclosed a postcard with this issue of street roots. Please help us create overwhelming public will to end this dehumanizing law.

Genny Nelson is the director of community organizing for crossroads.
She has been active with organizing homeless people in the community for more than 30 years.