New Regulations For Camping On Public Property Passed Unanimously By Portland City Council

Portland City Council has finally reached a unanimous decision on the regulation of camping on public property after facing numerous setbacks. The policy, approved on Wednesday morning, aims to address the issue of homelessness in Multnomah County by allowing individuals experiencing homelessness to camp on public property when no shelter beds are available. However, there are certain limitations and restrictions in place to ensure public safety and respect for private property.

Under the new regulations, campers are prohibited from using a propane heater, digging into the ground, starting fires, selling bicycles or car parts, or blocking access to private property. Violators of these rules may face fines of up to $100 or a jail sentence of up to seven days. Additionally, individuals who refuse to vacate their camp when informed by a city outreach worker that shelter space is available may also face the same penalties.

This policy replaces a public camping ban that was implemented last year but has since been caught up in legal disputes. The decision comes at a time when laws governing public camping are still being debated. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case from Grants Pass, Oregon, where the city argued that penalizing unsheltered people for sleeping outside does not violate the U.S. Constitution, despite a previous federal ruling stating otherwise. A ruling from the Supreme Court is expected in June and could have implications for Portland’s approach to public camping.

If the court rules in favor of Grants Pass, Portland would not be able to immediately enforce penalties on individuals camping in public spaces. The city would still need to comply with a state law that requires cities to establish rules allowing for public camping when no shelter space is available. City commissioners have previously been divided on this issue. In April, Commissioner Rene Gonzalez proposed a plan that would give the mayor sole authority to adapt the camping policy and outright ban public camping with some exceptions. However, Gonzalez’s plan did not gain enough support from other commissioners.

Despite his initial reservations, Commissioner Gonzalez ultimately voted in favor of the new policy on Wednesday. The unanimous decision by the Portland City Council signifies a step forward in addressing the complex issue of homelessness in the city while balancing the concerns of public safety and property rights.