An orange and white RV has been sitting behind a Central Eastside gas station for weeks. Two young women and three cats live there. Last week’s city camping rule requires them to move the RV during the day, although it’s unclear where.
“They want us gone. “There’s nowhere to disappear,” claimed RV inhabitant Zaina. Velma Carter, another resident, said she and other homeless Portlanders didn’t know RVs were included in the city’s new camping ban because city council talks have focused on tents impeding sidewalks and businesses. Carter, who has lived in her RV for a year, called it her one-bedroom residence on wheels.
The city’s most considerable homelessness-fighting measure takes effect on July 7. It prohibits the homeless from camping on public property from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to encourage shelter or affordable housing.
RVs and vehicles included in Portland daytime camping ban, unbeknownst to many homeless people https://t.co/7UjUmTVhjt
— KGW News (@KGWNews) June 15, 2023
The new regulation requires Carter and Zaina to follow the city’s parking requirements between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. as they use the RV as a campsite. Given the condition of their RV, they cannot legally park.
She’ll have to reposition her homemade setup during the day, delaying her recovery—job-hunting period. “How can I job hunt with a house on my back?” she said. Northeast 33rd Drive has dozens of tents and RVs, each a campsite. Many of the cars haven’t run in years.
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If and how they would be moved daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. “Tell us what we can do instead of what we can’t,” said Carter. The city answers that they can go to open shelters. In a statement, a person from the office of Mayor Ted Wheeler said:
“If a person using a car or RV as a campsite has been offered alternative access to shelter or housing, and they decline to use those alternatives, then they are prohibited from camping anywhere in the city because they have an alternative place to go. Suppose a person using a car or RV as a campsite cannot access alternative shelter or housing because it is unavailable. In that case, they meet the definition of ‘involuntarily homeless,’ and the person may camp if they follow the City’s time, place, and manner regulations.”
But people who are homeless say that is easier to say than to do.
“I have stayed in shelters before. “I’ve been through TPI and a lot of shelters. Right now, it’s tough to do with my animals,” Zaina said.
Back in the Central Eastside, Brianna Seethoff works at Heyday Salon, across the street from the RV. She said the salon keeps its doors locked, and employees often feel dangerous at work because of all the RVs, tents, and drug use outside. But she wasn’t sure how she felt about the ban.
“I’ve called 311 several times to get it cleaned up… “I think it’s silly to ban camping if we’re not going to do anything about services or mental health,” Seethoff said.