Neighborhood pushes 'safe zones' to keep illegal camping away from kids

Neighborhood pushing homeless camping safety zones

PORTLAND, Ore. -- After passing it out at a neighborhood safety meeting the night before, people living in the Laurelhurst neighborhood forwarded their proposed “safe zones” ordinance on to Portland city officials Thursday morning.

In it, they urge the city to set up 1,000-feet “safe zones” around places kids tend to go, including athletic fields, playgrounds, parks, beaches and others.

Under the would-be ordinance, anyone who uses drugs, urinates or defecates in public or camps illegally within those boundaries, and refuses to leave when asked, could face up to a $100 fine and 30 days in jail.

“We're trying to protect children, but trust me, this is going to help all of us,” said TJ Browning, a spokesperson for the group. “This is a dangerous situation that's gotten out of control.”

She said Thursday, the proposal was drafted over the last 8-10 months, with the help of attorneys and a retired judge living in the neighborhood.

One such attorney told KGW Thursday, writers of the proposal kept schools off the “safe zones” list because collaborating with districts, and potentially the state, would make passing the ordinance too complicated.

Browning added they’ve reached out to leaders in other neighborhood associations, in the hopes of presenting a united front.

“They aren’t criminal because they’re poor. It’s the behavior they choose to engage in and those who choose to engage in it that’s criminal,” she said. “We want them addressed, and we want them gone.”

Homeless advocates say the proposal serves as a condemnation of a population already struggling.

Israel Bayer, executive director of Street Roots, sat down for a taping of Straight Talk with Laural Porter Thursday and gave his take on the topic.

“I think it’s probably a little bit ‘pie in the sky’,” he said. “The reality is that we coexist with our homeless neighbors. We’re not talking about people from Mars. We’re talking about neighbors, residents, Americans, people who are down on their luck and having hard times.”

Bayer went on to say the proposal would allow a neighborhood, possibly more, to push what they deem a problem out of their boundaries.

“We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We are an urban environment. We are a city, and we have to be able to find ways to be able to support people of all income levels. Unfortunately, we’re dealing with a housing crisis in our community that is pushing thousands of people to the edges of society, and we’re just going to have to simply live with that in one way or another and, ultimately, we’re going to have to come up with solutions to all work together.”

Portland’s city attorney and Mayor Ted Wheeler have started reviewing the proposal, released Wednesday night.

When asked for his take on the proposal, Mayor Wheeler’s office sent this statement:

Homelessness is one of the greatest challenges we face as a community. The City’s One Point of Contact receives 500 reports per week of campsites and people living in vehicles throughout the city.

The Mayor is committed to continuing collaborating and coordinating intergovernmentally, with neighborhoods, and with diverse stakeholders to prevent and respond to the impacts of homelessness.

Read: Safe Zone Ordinance

© 2017 KGW-TV


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