Controversy Arises During Public Comment on Mayor Wheeler’s Planned Camping Ban

Proposed modifications to homeless camps prompted hours of public testimony before the Portland City Council on Wednesday night, generating arguments from both sides. The city of Portland claims they need to update their camping regulations so that they are in line with state law.

The council rooms were tense as supporters and opponents of the proposed ordinance changes gave testimony, drawing both applause and boos from the audience. As one opponent of the ordinance put it, “For this, you should stop sleeping well if you have any conscience at all.” β€œFor this, you should burn in hell.”

Check out this video to see how heated the public hearings on Mayor Wheeler’s proposed camping ban got-

Although there were arguments on both sides, it seemed that the majority of individuals who had signed up to speak were opposed to the ordinance. Some of the arguments opposing the ordinance included, “We must house the unhoused together by any means necessary” and “It will make the situation worse.”

Those in favor of the ordinance, meanwhile, said things like, “Please ban unsanctioned camping” and “No one seems to care about the most vulnerable community at all, our children.” Almost two hundred people signed up to speak on issues related to the proposed camping regulation revisions in Portland.

When people started shouting at the city council early on, Mayor Wheeler threatened to clear the chambers and hold the session virtually. β€œWe’re not here to applaud, we’re not here to boo, hiss, or heckle people, we’re here to listen to people’s perspective. He gave a good argument so let’s hear it.

“I will say again, if we have to go virtual, we’ll go virtual. It’s up to you,” said Wheeler, later adding, β€œExcuse me, once again, this is literally the last warning I’m giving and then we’re going to clear the chamber and we’re going to go virtual.”

Among the adjustments implemented to bring the city into conformity with state law are prohibitions on camping from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., in city parks and near schools, and front of private houses and businesses. Those who break the law repeatedly would face harsh penalties.

Controversy Arises on Mayor Wheeler's Planned Camping Ban

Some of those who are speaking out against the reforms have pointed out the time constraints, informing the council that the unhoused prefer to sleep during the day because they feel safer there. To avoid danger, “so many women and youth stay up all night to keep themselves safe,” as one speaker informed the council.

Some backers argue that the city has reached its breaking point and that harsher regulations will prompt more people to go for safe havens. β€œThe ordinance before you provides incentive to get the chronically unhoused into shelters, possibly alternative ones where they’ll receive better services,” said one speaker in support.

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But some who provide midday meal programs, like Blanchet House, say they are at capacity and would require aid from the city, so the mayor says his staff is looking into solutions like day shelters.

On Wednesday, May 31, only public comments were taken into consideration. The vote on the ordinance won’t happen until next week. The proposed change, if accepted, would be implemented on July 1.

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Louis Ebert

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