A group of homeless people in Portland have filed a class action lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court, pushing back against the city’s homeless camping restrictions.
The recent move comes after Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler banned homeless people in June from camping on public land during daytime hours. The class action lawsuit was filed on Friday, according to Oregon Live.
The lawsuit claims that the city’s current camping restrictions are in violation of Oregon law and the state’s constitution. It suggests that people who are involuntarily homeless have been subject to unreasonable punishments, such as taking part in unavoidable activities such as sleeping and staying warm and dry.
Though the Portland City Council approved details of the restrictions in June, the city has not started enforcing the rules. However, the report noted that officials in the city intend to implement the ban in the fall.
Cody Bowman, a spokesperson for Wheeler, said that the city is “focused on education and outreach efforts with the intention of starting enforcement in the coming weeks,” adding that the “city will provide two weeks’ notice to the community before enforcement begins.”
Lawyers who are representing the plaintiffs, from the Oregon Law Center, have asked the court to produce a restraining order to prohibit the city from enforcing the ban until the lawsuit is resolved.
“The ordinance subjects the approximately 10,000 Portlanders living outside every night to 30 days in jail for violating a law that is impossible to understand or comply with,” the lawsuit claims.
As the ban currently stands, the homeless are not allowed to set up camp on public land between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Violators will reportedly be issued two warnings, and the third violation could result in a fine or jail time, per the report.
Ed Johnson, the Oregon Law Center’s litigation director, said that the city’s ban “will exacerbate our city’s problems, not solve them,” adding that “[w]e all want to end homelessness. But this is not the way to do it.”
Johnson went on to suggest that the city needs to find a better way to make affordable housing and services accessible to those without a home.
“This ordinance is a huge step in the wrong direction,” he said. “It criminalizes our neighbors living outside and it wastes money that could be spent on proven solutions.”
Oregon Live reported that there are more than 6,000 people currently homeless in Multnomah County. The majority of those are considered unsheltered. The prevalence of homelessness in the county has rocketed 57% since 2019, just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city does not appear to be equipped to host the 6,000 people without a bed, as the county has about 2,000 shelter beds.
Unhoused Portlanders sue city, say camping ban violates state law, constitutionwww.youtube.com
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