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Carrying Your Home on Your Back:
City Council Criminalizes Camping

During a contentious City Council meeting on June 7, a large number of people testified as to the inhumanity of the proposed camping ban to be voted on that day. Violations of the ordinance, which bans camping from 8 AM to 8 PM, can result in jail time or fines. The ordinance was passed by a vote of four to one. Commissioner Rubio voted no, stating there are currently insufficient shelter spaces available for those living on the streets. While some new Safe Rest Villages and a mass encampment at the southeast Gideon Street site are opening (PPR #89), the existing shelters will not have capacity for everyone, and daytime shelters are overflowing.

One of the most vivid testimonies came from Sandra Comstock, Executive Director of Hygiene 4 All. "Are you asking homeless Portlanders, 60 percent of whom live with one or more disabilities, to carry their homes on their backs 12 hour per day, seven days a week?" She added that this will increase mental and physical distress. While Mayor Wheeler is alleging that enforcement will not take place right away, that does not alleviate the worry and concern suffered by those currently living on the streets. Testimony was given by the ACLU and the Oregon Law Center (OLC) and both strongly stated that this ordinance violates Oregon Law.

On July 1, the Oregon Law Center representing 24 individuals experiencing homelessness, informed Council of its intent to sue, indicating this ordinance violates state and federal law. Ed Johnson, Litigation Director of the OLC, stated that criminalization is the wrong approach to ending homelessness (Oregon Public Broadcasting, July 7).

[<i>Portland Tribune</i> June 14]In previous articles, we have reported how camp sweeps occur with a complete disregard for the campers' belongings. In 2020, a woman's camp was swept and her personal belongings were thrown away by Rapid Response Bio Clean, which is contracted by the City to sweep camps. She filed a lawsuit and in June was awarded $409 and reimbursement of attorney fees by an arbitrator (Portland Mercury blog, June 20).

The future of a widely admired program, Portland Street Response, which has served people with mental illness in many instances in lieu of the police, has been facing an uphill battle. The program is currently housed in the Fire Bureau. Both staff of the Fire Bureau and Commissioner Rene Gonzalez who oversees the Bureau (and who was the recipient of assistance from the firefighters' bargaining unit in his election) have been trying to undermine this program. Former Chief Boone recently retired. Interim Chief Ryan Gillespie recently put a freeze on the items purchased by PSR to hand out to houseless people. He maintains that these purchases which are then handed out to houseless folks are a violation of City's procurement rules.

Commissioner Gonzalez also instituted a hiring freeze on any further PSR staff. There has been conflict with some of the firefighters who refer to PSR staff as being "too woke" and they also have a problem with the use of pronouns when PSR staff are introducing themselves. It would seem that firefighters who run into burning buildings would certainly be brave enough to be around PSR workers. Both the Bureau and Commissioner Gonzalez believe that PSR is "enabling" houseless people by handing out items to them (OPB, June 27). If handing out food and clothing to a person who is cold and hungry is "enabling" then there needs to be a new definition of humanity. It should also be noted that one of the PSR staff spoke with the media and was subsequently fired. A petition entitled Friends of Portland Street Response was circulated and was signed by over 10,000 people. PSR responded to 7,000 calls last year (KOIN-6TV, July 19).

Funding for PSR has been a concern, and a Portland Fire and Rescue program called "CHAT" (Community Health Assess and Treat) threatened to draw money away from them. Commissioner Gonzalez recently received "verbal agreement" that Care Oregon would provide funding for the CHAT for at least another year and that will result in more funding security for PSR (Oregonian, July 16).

  [People's Police Report]

September, 2023
Also in PPR #90

PPB Officers Kill Again After Short Break
OR Law Enforcement Deadly Force Down a Bit
DOJ May Agree to Court Monitor for Portland
$150K+ More Paid for Police Protest Violence
 • "Restorative Justice": Indictment Dropped for Brutal Cop
Oversight Board Plan Ready for Approval
Independent Police Review Investigations Lag
2023 Review Board Report #1: No Deadly Force
City Council Criminalizes Camping
City Audit: PPB Spying Lacks Proper Rules
State Discipline Commission Prints Guide
Better Force Data Promised to Training Council
More Copwatch Comments on Bureau Policies
Quick Flashes PPR #90:
 • PPB Annual Report Missing Deadly Force, Race
 • Traffic Stop Data: Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
 • Immigrants Seeking Safety Denied Special Visas

Updates PPR #90:
 • Police Ass'n Compromises On Body Cam Pre-Review
 • Commanders Fix Oversight, Officers Get 43 New Positions
 • Police Drones Now Cruising Portland Skies

Rapping Back #90

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #90 Table of Contents
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