Laws and Justice

New Rules in Portland Allow Fines or Jail Time for Homeless Campers

Main image to the post New Rules in Portland Allow Fines or Jail Time for Homeless Campers

The City Council in Portland, Oregon, recently passed new regulations that permit fines or jail time for homeless individuals who choose to camp on public property and refuse offers of shelter. According to the updated rules, penalties of up to US$100 or a maximum of seven days in prison could be imposed for various infractions, including blocking sidewalks, using gas heaters, starting fires, or allowing belongings to extend beyond two feet outside of tents when shelter is not accessible. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced that the enforcement of this law will commence shortly, emphasizing the importance of managing public spaces effectively in addressing the issue of unsheltered homelessness in the city.

These changes come after a previous version of the ordinance faced legal challenges with advocates asserting that penalizing homeless individuals for camping during daylight hours was too severe. The judge overseeing the case halted the implementation of the stricter ordinance, prompting the City Council to revise the rules to the current form unanimously approved. The escalating problem of homeless encampments in Portland and other cities in the U.S. West has led to a contentious debate between advocacy groups advocating against criminal penalties for lacking housing and officials arguing that managing encampments is necessary to maintain public safety and hygiene standards.

Despite the opposition from advocacy groups who believe financial penalties or jail time are not the appropriate solutions for homelessness, city officials in Portland stress the need for measures to effectively manage homeless encampments. Mayor Wheeler has framed the new regulations as a step in the right direction in the ongoing efforts to tackle the complex and urgent issue of unsheltered homelessness in the city. The enforcement of the new rules is set to start in the near future, as Portland and other cities continue to grapple with the challenges posed by the increasing number of homeless individuals residing in public spaces.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09