June 11th, 2008 | by Amanda Waldroupe News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall, Politics

City Council gets an ear (and mailbox) full against the sit-lie ordinance

     
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This morning, Patrick Nolen, the community organizer for Sisters of the Road, testified to the City Council that the sit-lie and anti-camping ordinances "criminalize people based only on the fact that they have no place to call their own."

"Between these two laws...it is effectively illegal to be homeless in Portland's downtown core," Nolen told the council.

It is the first time that Sisters, a nonprofit providing meals to the homeless, has formally testified to the Council since a three-week homeless protest in front of City Hall that called for more affordable housing and the suspension or repeal of the sit-lie and anti-camping ordinances. (See WWire for coverage of the protest).

Michael Buonocore, the associate director of Sisters, says testifying at City Hall is the first step of many "grassroots organizing steps" to come since their resignation from the Mayor's SAFE (Safe Access For Everyone) Committee.

One of those steps include a postcard campaign to collect signatures of Portlanders who support the repeal of the sit-lie and anti-camping ordinances. Today at the City Council meeting, Nolen and other members of Sisters delivered 1,950 signed postcards to the Council (see below).

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"It's a deeply felt issue that concerns a lot of people in Portland," Buonocore said. "This [delivery of nearly 2,000 signatures] just scratches the surface."

None of the Council members responded to Nolen's remarks or the delivery of the postcards (a response is not typical during the communications section of a City Council meeting, but has happened before).

Despite the fact that the protest in front of City Hall has ended, Buonocore says that Sisters—as well as other advocates and homeless individuals—will continue to hold the Council's feet to the fire until the ordinances are repealed, or until a compromise can be reached.

"There is still room for discussion," Buonocore says.

That may not be the case with the current Council, which has shown no signs of considering repealing or changing either of the ordinances. But with fresh faces on the Council, that might change.

Nick Fish, who has inherited Erik Sten's seat on the Council, would not say whether he supported the repeal of the ordinances.

"I want to make sure I know what I'm talking about before I do something," Fish said, adding that he is going to be meeting with some of the protesters and advocates in the following weeks.

Amanda Fritz, a candidate in November's run off for Sam Adams' seat, told WW in an email that she supports the repealing the sit-lie ordinance and amending the anti-camping ordinance (Fritz cites public safety reasons for not supporting its repeal).

"Sleeping is a basic human function, and the two regulations together make it illegal to be human, homeless and sleepy in Portland," she wrote.

Charles Lewis, Fritz's candidate, would not explicitly say whether he supports either ordinance, but said that the City needs to do more to provide services to homeless people—such as public bathrooms and day shelters—to help keep them off the streets.

"We need to do that first before we start penalizing people for being homeless," Lewis said.

WW will update tomorrow with other commissioner's thoughts about the sit-lie and anti-camping ordinances, but until then, what do you think City Council should do?
 
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