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Criminalization of Homelessness on Hold

The City's ban on camping during the hours from 8 AM to 8 PM is currently on hold as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Oregon Law Center (OLC) representing homeless individuals. On November 9, a Multnomah County Circuit Judge issued a temporary restraining order stopping the ban until the suit is resolved. Ed Johnson of the OLC stated that criminalizing homeless people is not the answer to the problem of trying to house people. In a specious argument, the City argued that the ban would help to connect houseless people with services. Subsequent to the order, Mayor Wheeler stated the City will abide by it but will continue to fight (Oregonian, November 10).

[OPB November 9 article]While Mayor Wheeler may see this "fight" as against the Courts and the OLC, does he not realize that those he is battling are houseless, indigent, disabled and elderly people? In establishing the ban, the City did not provide sufficient information regarding where people could or could not put their tents. However, it was made clear that after two warnings, a person might either be fined $100 or sent to jail for 30 days. In addition to this poorly thought out ban, Mayor Wheeler also weaponized the weather, deciding to announce the first enforcement would take place just as the coldest and wettest months were beginning. The ban did not seem to take into consideration that there are simply insufficient shelters to accommodate those whose only option is to camp in public spaces. According to a Street Roots report, the current available shelters would only accommodate 30 percent of homeless Portlanders (Portland Mercury blog, November 10).

Two to four Portland Police officers have been assigned to patrolling the downtown area, along with several Oregon State Police troopers who are part of a plan to support business and crack down on crime. Of course it can't be a coincidence that the new Ritz Carlton hotel with its condos, penthouses and restaurants is now open and the police need to make sure the occupants do not have to be offended by the presence of poor and unhoused people. While the ban is in the process of being resolved in the courts, sweeps are still ongoing and making life even more miserable for unhoused people.

Housing, or lack thereof, remains the major issue regarding the issue of camping on the streets. A report recently indicated that 99% of the people who were helped into permanent supportive housing by Multnomah County remain housed a year later (Oregonian, November 8) further supporting the fact that housing, not criminalization, is the answer to street camping. Unfortunately, the goals set by Multnomah County regarding permanent housing have not been met.

Between July 2022 and the end of June 2023 five safe rest villages were opened by the City. Two additional safe rest villages were opened in July. One village is for vehicle parking for those who sleep in cars or RVs. It was reported that 45% of the residents of the villages left for permanent housing (Oregonian, October 11).

Despite attempts by the Portland Fire Department and Commissioner Rene Gonzalez to limit the work of Portland Street Response, PSR continues to assist houseless people in various ways and with less harm than if the Portland Police are sent out to deal with the issues faced by those with no place to live except on the streets.

It was recently reported that of all the pedestrian traffic deaths this year, unhoused people made up of 45% of those deaths (Oregonian, November 22).

  [People's Police Report]

January, 2024
Also in PPR #91

Community Oversight Plan Dismantled by City
DOJ Agreement 1/2 Terminated, Court Monitor OKd
Police Violence Costs the City Another $371,000+
 • "Union" Pays Former Commissioner $680K for False Claims
PPB Kills Third Person in 2023
 • Man in Mental Health Crisis Dies in Milwaukie Cops' Custody
State Police Deadly Force Down from 42 to 30+
 • More News: D.Clark, DEA/Qualified Immunity, CW Graphic
Review Committee Loses Five Members, Gains One
IPR Annual Report Adds Some Detail, Omits Others
Criminalization of Homelessness on Hold
Medford Police Continue Spying on Activists
 • Mohammed Mohamud Loses Appeal Bid
Chief Lovell Steps Down, Bob Day Takes Over
Deputies Indicted: Jail Deaths, Off-Duty Fight
Profiling Data Discussed at Two Public Meetings
Training Council Delays Force Data Presentations
Car Crashes Spotlit in Comments on Police Policies
State Discipline Rules Updated at Iffy Meetings
Still No Deadly Force in Review Board Report
Updates PPR #91:
 • Council Approves Body Cameras as Pilot Ends Without Data
 • Drone Use Slowly Creeping Up Month by Month

Rapping Back #91

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.

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