Portland, Sacramento Propose Banning Camping Citywide

Both West Coast cities are preparing to criminalize sleeping on public streets, claiming new shelter beds will provide enough resources for their unhoused populations.

2 minute read

October 28, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Coronavirus and Homelessness

Encampment in Portland, Oregon | Robert P. Alvarez / Shutterstock

In a housing brief on Next City, Roshan Abraham outlines two proposals aimed at further criminalizing homelessness in Portland, Oregon and Sacramento. The two cities are poised to ban sleeping on public streets if two proposals are approved by Portland’s city council and Sacramento voters.

The Portland proposal calls for increased shelter capacity and would force unsheltered people to move to city-run “alternate camping sites,” which would accommodate roughly 1,500 people, around half of the city’s unhoused population. “Oregon Live reports that the city council supports the resolutions, but getting them passed would not automatically lead to a camping ban or new shelter space, as resolutions are non-binding and the funding details would have to be worked out in the next budget cycle.”

In Sacramento, a ballot measure will let voters decide whether to make camping on public streets a misdemeanor. “The measure also allows “any resident harmed” by a violation of the measure to begin proceedings with the city to have someone removed.” If the measure passes, it may not be enforceable due to a clause that requires cooperation with the county.

Critics say cities are engaging in “legal gymnastics” to leverage new shelter space as “a pretext for criminalization,” with Abraham noting that “many cities rush to roll out shelter space prior to camping bans in order to comply with the 2019 decision in Martin vs. Boise, which barred jurisdictions from issuing public sleeping bans when there was not sufficient shelter space.”

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