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The City of Portland, Oregon

Homelessness Toolkit

City of Portland

FAQ: Enforcement

I HAVE A HOMELESS CAMP IN FRONT OF MY BUSINESS/HOME. WHY CAN’T THE POLICE DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW?

When an illegal campsite is identified and movement is necessary, the City follows a process designed to be as transparent as possible in order to reduce trauma for everyone involved. That process, mandated in the settlement of the Anderson v. Portland lawsuit, requires the City to post notification at the camp in question stating that they will have to leave. As soon as the City decides to remove the camp, service providers are notified to conduct outreach to the affected campers. 

The notification posted by the City gives anywhere from 48 hours to 10 days advance notice for individuals that they need to pack up and vacate the area. Following the initial 48 hour timeframe, contractors can then go to the camp and pick up garbage and any belongings people leave behind. Anything deemed as reasonably valuable personal property is taken to a storage facility and remains available for pickup for at least one month before it’s either thrown away or donated. 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO "POST" A CAMPSITE?

A post refers to written notification the City is required to give occupants of an unsanctioned encampment prior to the cleanup and removal of personal belongings. When a campsite is posted, the campers in that area have anywhere from 48 hours to 10 days to vacate the area and remove all of their belongings. This timeframe and process for cleanup is a direct result of Anderson et al. v. City of Portland DV-01447-AA, otherwise known as the Anderson Agreement. The Anderson Agreement governs the process by which the City responds to issues of unsanctioned encampments where individuals have erected structures in the public right of way and on public properties. It mandates the City provide written notification to campers no less than 48 hrs. in advance of camp cleanup, and that the City collect and store any personal belongings that are determined to be of reasonable value and/or utility. Any belongings found to be of value and/or utility that are left behind are collected, photographed, and stored for a period of no less than 30 days for retrieval by the owner. After that 30-day period, if the property has not been reclaimed then it is either thrown away or donated to social service organizations.

For more information on this process or to find out what the City can and cannot store- please visit the Process for Belongings Retrieval page of our toolkit.

WHO HAS THE AUTHORITY TO POST CAMPSITES?

The Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program (HUCIRP) currently coordinates all camp cleanups throughout the City and has the authority to post campsites on City owned/maintained property. Posting and cleaning campsites can be difficult to coordinate. With multiple stakeholders at the table and a certain set of criteria that must be adhered to, it is essential that the City identify and adhere to a standard and uniform set of procedures when dealing with any unsanctioned encampment on public property. This centralized authority alleviates confusion as to what entity can post campsites for cleanup and when the postings are issued. Please note that this authority extends only to campsites located on City of Portland property and not on properties belonging to ODOT, TriMet, Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway, or other entities including the Port of Portland and private commercial and residential properties.

WHY WON’T THE CITY INSTITUTE A “SIT-LIE” ORDINANCE?

A "sit-lie" policy is one designed to prevent people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks. In 2009 the United States District Court ruled that the City’s “sit-lie” ordinance was unconstitutional. Since then, the City has improved public space management in numerous ways.

By creating more walking beat routes with the Portland Police Bureau, police now have greater awareness of who lives on the street and have worked to earn trust, making it much easier for people to respect public space.

Certain high-use areas are designated “high pedestrian zones”, which mandates passable sidewalk; there are many blocks in the Central City that have been given this status by the Portland Bureau of Transportation and Portland Police Bureau.

I AM WITNESSING UNLAWFUL ACTIVITY, SUCH AS DRUGS, SEX IN PUBLIC, AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR, AND PEOPLE USING THE PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY AS A TOILET. WHAT ARE THE BOUNDARIES OF LEGAL AND ILLEGAL BEHAVIOR? WHO SHOULD I CALL WHEN I WITNESS UNLAWFUL BEHAVIORS?

The City has created a “One Point of Contact” system to allow for a more efficient, streamlined way for the public to alert the City on misuse of public space. This system allows the public to easily report concerns regarding urban camping (i.e. aggressive behavior, open drug use) without having to be shuffled from bureau to bureau in order to get an issue resolved.

Not all complaints will result in immediate action by the City. There are low-level behaviors that will continue, as the City must marshal its resources strategically. But knowing where bad behavior exists allows the City to better coordinate resources with the Joint Office of Homeless Services and A Home For Everyone.

Please continue to report instances of urban camping at www.pdxreporter.org or at www.portlandoregon.gov/campsites. If there is an emergency, dial 911.

WHY WON’T THE POLICE ARREST PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS?

Being homeless is not against the law. The Department of Justice has recently made it clear that not allowing people to sleep on the street may be illegal. Criminal behaviors that happen in homeless camps are addressed by Portland Police Bureau in the same manner as any other crime. If you witness criminal behavior that warrants immediate response, please call 9-1-1.