Posted by on May 26, 2023 5:00 pm
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Portland prepares new restrictions on tents on sidewalks as homeless camps overrun city

FILE – Tents line the sidewalk on SW Clay St in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 9, 2020. Portland will remove tents blocking sidewalks under a tentative settlement announced Thursday, May 25, 2023, in a lawsuit brought by people with disabilities who said sprawling homeless encampments prevent them from navigating Oregon’s most populous city. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer, File) Craig Mitchelldyer/AP

Portland prepares new restrictions on tents on sidewalks as homeless camps overrun city

Eden Villalovas May 26, 04:15 PMMay 26, 04:15 PM

The city of Portland, Oregon, has settled a class action lawsuit that sought to eliminate tents on sidewalks, claiming they are obstacles for individuals with wheelchairs and walkers. The city announced on Thursday that it will remove tents blocking sidewalks.

“We are hopeful that this settlement will relieve one of the City’s largest minority groups — persons with mobility disabilities — of the burdens which have been associated with misguided policies that have left homeless persons to languish on sidewalks and in public spaces,” one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, John DiLorenzo, stated in an email to the Washington Examiner.

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In early September, Portlanders with mobility disabilities sued the city over tents blocking the sidewalks, stating Portland was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal Rehabilitation Act for failing to provide equal sidewalk access.

The plaintiffs, consisting of a caretaker and nine people with disabilities who use wheelchairs, filed the motion to ensure navigation for people with disabilities is made easier and supported by the city of Portland.

“The city has abandoned us and the homeless,” plaintiff Barbara Jacobsen said during a press conference in September.

The lawsuit states Portland was not complying with “applicable federal statutes and regulations because they are blocked by tent encampments and attendant debris, rendering the sidewalks inaccessible, dangerous, and unsanitary for people with mobility disabilities.”

The final agreement includes various measures to support safety on Portland’s sidewalks. Some of the orders the city must abide by include posting ‘no camping’ signs in regularly obstructed areas, removing a minimum of 500 campsites each year, and providing quarterly reports.

The settlement requires a minimum of $8 million for the fiscal year of 2023-24 and a minimum of $3 million per year for the following four fiscal years for campsite removals and other measures and paying the plaintiff’s $5,000 each for compensatory damages, DiLorenzo shared.

Under the settlement, Portland is not required to admit to any wrongdoing or liability.

The settlement came after Mayor Ted Wheeler proposed updates to the city’s camping codes to the Portland City Council. Wheeler released in a statement that camping between the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. would be prohibited and introduced a complete ban on camps in certain spaces like parks, sidewalk areas, or near schools, construction sites, and other areas.

“Camps may not obstruct access to private property or businesses, individuals cannot start or use gas heaters in or around a site, set up permanent structures, accumulate garbage or hazardous materials, assemble or offer to sell multiple bicycles, cars, or other parts,” the update to the city ordinance read.

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Wheeler has been adamant about tackling the number of homeless encampments in Portland, noting in a March video statement that “there are hundreds of unsanctioned camps spread out across virtually every neighborhood of our city, over a massive 146 square mile area.”

The settlement will need to be approved by the City Council and the U.S. District Court in Portland to go into effect.

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