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Oregon Legislature OKs measure to protect homeless campers

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Legislature gave final passage Wednesday to a bill to protect homeless campers in public spaces.

House Bill 3115, which goes to Gov. Kate Brown, mandates that any city or county law must be reasonable if it regulates “sitting, lying, sleeping or keeping warm and dry outdoors on public property.”

Among those championing the bill was Jimmy Jones, executive director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, which assists those experiencing homelessness.

“The bill before you will regulate the time, place, and manner that public camping can be policed. It will give us a chance to give the people living in these conditions a little dignity, a few more services, and it will give us a chance to show that we believe that the Constitution applies to all of us,” Jones testified to a House committee in March.

The bill passed the House on April 15 and the Senate on Wednesday.

Under the measure, a homeless person charged with violating a ban on camping or loitering would have an affirmative defense against a law that is not objectively reasonable. A person experiencing homelessness may also sue to challenge the objective reasonableness of a city or county law, and be awarded attorney fees if the plaintiff prevails

Eric Mitton, deputy city attorney for Medford, testified that the city supported the measure because it recognizes the rights of people experiencing homelessness, while also recognizing the rights of municipalities to reasonably regulate their public property so it “remains available to all for its intended uses.”

The Marion County Board of Commissioners opposed it, however, saying the measure “would limit local control of the homeless crisis facing Oregon.”

“This bill would place residents in our communities at risk by restricting local government’s power to limit homeless camps,” commissioners Kevin Cameron, Danielle Bethell and Colm Willis wrote.

Legal experts testified that the bill’s standards are consistent with recent federal case law.

The Oregon Law Center noted that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that homeless people cannot be punished for sleeping outside on public property in the absence of adequate alternatives, or unless the law imposes “reasonable time, place and manner” restrictions on regulated activities in public space.

“Passage of (the bill) will preserve the important pieces of the cases in state law, written in a way that has been agreed upon by key stakeholders,” said Becky Straus, staff attorney with the Oregon Law Center.

If Brown signs the bill, it will take effect on July 1, 2023.

Straus said it would force local governments to review their camping and related ordinances “in a way that recognizes the reality of Oregon’s rising rates of homelessness.”

Government-politics / News / Top Stories

The Associated Press



    1. The Governor’s mansion and the grounds should be the first place converted to public camping. If I were a Salem
      Police officer or Marion county sheriff, that is where I would drop off a person and their belongings who will not go to one of a myriad homeless shelters in the Capitol city. The solution is easy; parking garages under government or tax subsidized buildings become over-night shelters run by non-refits who have seen significant increases in federal grants during the pandemic; cars out by 7pm, homeless in by 8pm, lights out at 9pm, up at 5.30am, out of parking garage by 6.30, cars back in by 7am. Weekends in gov’t parking garages; non-profits bring in portable laundry facilities and medical teams as they can stay the weekend. It gives the homeless shelter in evenings and then a sense of work/life schedule that most of the taxpayers public conducts. Portland, Salem and Eugene have significant numbers of these and can be utilized for the statewide population.

      1. Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic to seek truth and draw conclusions from new or existing information. You’ve rarely had that capacity in years of posting. It’s a good part of being a member of Cult45.

  1. Sweet, set up shop downtown in one of those fancy new parklets by deschutes brewery. Public property, beer near the tent door, and no driving.

  2. I am tried of the continuous maligning of the homeless as group, as some sub-species to make it easier for some to dismiss them as a whole. Not all are drug addicts, drunks, lazy, criminal, and so on. There are bad, lost, and worse people that have homes and money. Does homelessness encourage bad things? Yes, and a good part of that is because homeless are seen as easy prey, also these are often people that are desperate and hopeless. Many times out of options. Some are Vets, disabled, mentally unwell or handicapped. Some are families that had a catastrophic turn of luck, victims of the greedy and powerful even. Many have jobs but can’t find a place they can afford and with time fall further down the cracks. Heck many of us are one good disaster away from homelessness and are not even aware of it. The problem needs a real solution for those that deserve a chance, the resources are inadequate and the problem just gets worse. Granted nobody wants to see it in the streets, by the stores we use, the parks we like. There is also the problem of garbage and waste, property damage, the effect to businesses, etc… Doing things like having dumpsters, trash cans, toilets made available instead of removing them as I have seen done for the last few years would help. It cost us less to pickup stuff that is disposed of than it does to clean up what is laying around. There may not be any good solutions but we need a new approach. The discussion should be about that not about how to ignore it, demonize it, criminalize it.

    1. While many of your thoughts are correct, there are a number of issues of “victim card-ism” that needs to be addressed. Why did a homeless shelter tear down a functioning converted motel for a parking lot which reduced the capacity in Bend; why did Multnomah County let a perfectly good jail that was never used get bought for a song and now it is okay to convert to a homeless center; why does the state mandate cities allow camping anywhere, yet does not change the Governor’s mansion into a temp shelter? Homeless advocates get to keep their positions if they don’t work to resolve the issues. During the last year of COViD-19, we allowed three different sets of family and friends to reside with us rather than have them in an unsheltered situation while they were between homes. The families of some of the homeless can do more State choose to close Dammisch, Fairview, Eastern Oregon mental health facilities and pushed residents essentially out on the street without adequate support. Now those facilities are gone and taxpayers wonder why. And you have to recognize that there is a hardcore “homeless” cadre that will not work to become functioning members of society where you work, pay bills and clean up after oneself.

      1. Oh I do not disagree with the spirit of your comments though I know little about the facts of what you cited. As for you helping those in need out I say bravo, the wife and I did the same when we had the room and the means thought it often backfired on us. As you say there are some that do not really want to be helped or you just can’t. Yes there are bad people and parasites that are homeless but that is true regardless of having a home or money. Then there are the all-so-wise people in charge and a society that seems not to be able to properly address the issue. The people and groups that do try to do something end up being little more than a band-aide but better that than nothing. It seems that a species that can go to the moon, have robots on Mars should be able to figure this out. I think that the human race is insane as well as brilliant. People need to ask the hard questions like you not just ignore it and cover it with hatred and disdain.

    2. Yeah, that’s called compassion, something the mostly Trumper commenters here don’t have, just like their cult leader. And so many of them claim to be Christians? Nope.

    3. Some of what you are saying is correct. The individuals who are truely on hard times usually leverage shelters and other governmental outreach. This group is in the minority of the homeless issue.

      Most of the “campers” are hard core fenanyl or meth users who refuse to go to shelters because they would have to clean up their act. Its this group of “campers” who contribute to the big increase of crimes, vandalism, littering, etc. This group of “campers” should be considered a permanent fixture as they have no intention of getting of the drugs, etc. Why would they as they will soon get to set up camp in Drake Park (for free), get handouts from the city AND continue to enjoy not being held accountable for anything.

      Liberal run cities never learn their lesson. What “German in Venice” on youtube. This guy covers the struggles with homelessness in Venice Beach in great detail. German in Venice’s coverage should act as a guild for things to come in Bend.

      Lastly, folks in Los Angeles are not working on recalls of two city council memebers due to things finally hitting rock bottom.

      1. Most? I have no numbers on that, but real criminals should be dealt with. It is this stigma that stains them all. Some of these people are just sick physically and or mentally including Vets and older people. I am not suggesting any solutions here just saying the question needs proper framing.

    4. I have an idea, let them live at your house, all of them, or as many as can fit in your home and yard, and then stop clicking on articles about them, then you wont have to be tired of reading these comments anymore. Problem solved by the gracious, holier than thou Roy. I will even help you out by packing them up in a dump trailer and delivering them to you, what’s your address?

  3. 2 stories about Oregon Legislative actions today that protect those that break laws. Nothing for the honest working taxpayers of this state. Liberalism is a disease that needs cured.

  4. The word “objectively” sounds like it has a lot of wiggle room…they should just “You can’t touch this…” and be done with it.

    I’ll say it again, Discovery Park in NW Crossing is flat, good parking, nice grass, covered shelter with tables and clean restrooms, a community garden…it’s perfect and its right where at least two of the councilors live.

    It’s a PERFECT place for a tent city.

    1. I agree, they can bronze in the park, bath in the pond, use the bathrooms, there is a nice NW Crossings community to panhandle in, should they choose to educate themselves, there are 3 nice schools right around the corner, and hey, if they want to take up golf, Tetherow seems like a good place to learn.

  5. Say goodbye to Drake park, the River Trail and anywhere else you like to enjoy with your family. Remember this when you vote for these liberal politicians again next time!

  6. “give the people living in these conditions a little dignity” how about including in the new law they are not allowed to have anything outside of there tent “garbage collection” have some dignity!

  7. And all of you voted for Biden made this all worse because of his actions and non actions prices have gone thru the roof. Now he is over seas telling the world our biggest problem is climate change. Sorry he is lost and his VP = 0

    1. Prices would have gone up, regardless who was elected President of the United States. The pandemic has had a major impact on that over the past year and a half.

  8. When you know that your policies are creating the problem, and you know that it is going to get much worse because of these policies, then this would of course be your solution.
    Stupid is, as stupid does.

  9. Incredibly well stated, Mr. Jarrett. There is a potential bonus for us all in being helpful, rather than punitive. Programs that provide services and transitional housing benefit the community by reducing public spending for jails, mental health interventions, and medical treatment, not to mention improving the lives of otherwise vulnerable people.

      1. There are examples of revenue saving projects designed to help and house the unhoused. One–mentioned by U.S. District Judge Mark Clarke in his Blake v. Grants pass decision of last July.

        “Hope Village now sits on property owned by the City of Medford and another property leased by Rogue Retreat. Residents of Hope Village are required to attend case management meetings, counseling sessions, and work on permanent ways to stay off of the streets. Rogue Retreat says the average stay at Hope Village is around four months, and the program has a 62 percent success rate. According to Rogue Retreat, this means 6 out of 10 people in the program successfully move away from homelessness.”

        Medford can be proud of Hope Village, THE MAIL TRIBUNE (Aug. 4, 2019), (“Hope Village in Oregon faced some pushback in its early stages a few years ago. Some people feared that it would increase crime and generate litter. But resident Buckshot Cunningham says those fears proved to be wrong. ‘Look at this place,’ he says, motioning to the neat row of cottages. ‘It’s clean; it’s beautiful. And it stays that way seven days a week, all year round. It’s pretty simple.”‘

            1. Well it is an Oregon solution that may apply to a Central Oregon problem, I like that idea. I will pop you guys an email then. Probably just cut and paste BillBlake’s comment…. lol

  10. Giving them a bus ticket to DC would be a suitable alternative to letting them squat around here. If they didn’t take the ride….provide some other govt housing in the county jail.

  11. I’m surprised the City Council has not yet dictated that hazardous needle containers shall be placed at the homeless camping sites. I mean lets give them some dignity. And I realize some are just in a bad situation but for the most part……

  12. Ranchers allowing cattle to graze on public lands to feed the population? — Unthinkable!
    Hikers using public trails in National forests? — Make it impossible to get a permit and generate $$
    Homeless on public lands, leaving human feces, drug abuse and mounds of garbage? — Oh yah, that’s something we want to embrace and encourage!

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