A group of homeless people in Portland, Oregon, filed a class-action lawsuit Friday challenging the city’s new restrictions on day camping in an effort to address safety concerns stemming from a crisis of people living in the street.
The lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court alleges that the restrictions violate Oregon law and the state constitution because they subject people who become involuntarily permanently homeless to unreasonable penalties for unavoidable activities, including sleeping and staying dry, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Violators could face jail time and/or fines of up to $100.
Attorneys with the Oregon Law Center, which represents the plaintiffs, are asking the court for a temporary restraining order to prevent the city from enforcing the restrictions until the lawsuit is resolved.
“The order subjects the estimated 10,000 Portland residents living outdoors each night to 30 days in jail for violating a law that is impossible to understand or obey,” the lawsuit claims.
The Portland City Council voted in June to adopt an ordinance banning daytime camping in most public places, as the city, along with other cities across the United States, grapples with the long-standing crisis of people living outside.
The measure states that people can camp in unregulated areas from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., but at that time they must dismantle their campsites until permitted overnight hours resume.
Camping is also completely prohibited near schools, parks and busy streets, among other places.
Oregon Law Center litigation director Ed Johnson called the measure “a huge step in the wrong direction” in a statement, saying the city needs more supportive housing, rental assistance, tenant protections and supports to stabilize unhoused Portlanders so they can have better access. housing and services.
A spokesman for Mayor Ted Wheeler, Cody Bowman, declined to comment on the lawsuit to the newspaper but said the city plans to begin enforcing the new rules in the coming weeks.
Wheeler said the prosecutions will focus on alternative sentences that connect people to resources.
Bowman said the city is focused on education and outreach efforts related to the ordinance and will provide two weeks’ notice to the public before enforcement begins.
Businesses and landowners were among those who supported the measure, introduced by the mayor, saying the campsites were costing them customers and creating safety concerns.
Advocates for homeless people said it would further burden them, increasing their mental and physical distress.
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