Portland City Hall Won’t Sweep Homeless Camps More Than 10 Feet From Doorways

The safe rest villages will start being built in September, according to Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office.

Heat Wave Cooling station, SE Morrison and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., organized by Ground Score Association (trashforpeace.org) (Brian Burk)

As conversation heats up about Commissioner Dan Ryan’s plan to build six safe rest villages across the city, Portland’s protocols for sweeping homeless camps were formalized at a June 30 meeting of the City Council.

The aim is to codify sweep protocols, Ryan’s office explained to WW, for the first time ever.

One protocol the council cemented Wednesday: deprioritize sweeping encampments that are at least 10 feet away from entrances to residential or commercial buildings, so long as the building is not a school and the encampment doesn’t contain biohazardous waste, harbor criminal activity or consist of more than eight structures.

“[This] ordinance is not intended to increase or decrease interactions between Portlanders experiencing houselessness and the Impact Reduction Program—our goal is to create clarity around the city’s approach toward houselessness,” spokesperson Margaux Weeke said.

The City Council’s unanimous approval of the ordinance paves way for the construction of Ryan’s “safe rest villages” which will be six sanctioned lots that are equipped with laundry, basic hygiene facilities, mental health services, case management and garbage and recycling.

A potential rough blueprint for a safe rest villages shows a large communal area in the center (labelled “plants” and “art”), individual units around the perimeter (it’s unclear if those would be tents or some type of pod or tiny house), and a dotted line enclosing the space (again, it’s unclear if that would be a fence or some other type of barrier).

Weeke says Ryan’s office worked on the ordinance alongside the Oregon Law Center, Street Roots and all five commissioners’ offices to establish sweep guidelines.

The ordinance also decrees that campers cannot be required to move to safe rest villages once they’re built out—which will begin September. That renews the question of whether people will go voluntarily.

This story has been updated with the results of the council vote and more details about the safe rest areas.

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