Oregon has vast resources for homeless people. There are large numbers of shelters all over the major cities with empty beds. However, many homeless refuse this free service because the shelters prevent them from continuing their drug addiction. They also prevent illegal activities used to pay for drugs, such as theft and prostitution.
Wherever you have a homeless encampment, you have a lot of local crime. Then you have people strung out on drugs in public view.
Both branches of the Oregon legislature have now passed House Bill 3115, and the Governor is expected to sign it into law. The bill will make “No Camping” signs on public property illegal. It also gives the homeless the right to use any measure necessary for “keeping warm and dry” other than the use of an open flame.
The bill says that all communities in the state must re-write local laws to allow homeless people to sit, lie down, and pitch tents. Homeless will be able to seek “injunctive or declaratory relief” against communities in circuit court that interfere. It even says the courts “may award reasonable attorney fees.” That means an entire industry of lawyers chasing after these cases could emerge. Homeless will be allowed to set up tent cities in front of town halls, libraries, and other buildings with impunity.
The legislation is based on the false pretense that homeless shelters in the state have no room. We have seen, time and time again, that when communities in Oregon attempt to transport people from tent cities to shelters, some violently resist. Violent Antifa groups have even shown up to riot on behalf of the homeless who refuse shelters.
The bill is prompted by a pro-homeless ruling made by the 9th Circuit court in 2018. In the aftermath of Martin v Boise, Idaho, communities across the Pacific Northwest began placing “no camping” signs on public property. House Bill 3115 gives all communities until July of 2023 to re-write local laws and ordinances to be more homeless-friendly.
Proponents of the bill say that this will encourage all communities to fund adequate shelter space. They ignore the fact that the people who habitually camp on public property are the drug addicts who refuse the shelters.
Some Oregon media outlets claim that the bill only mandates legal homeless encampments if there are no open spots at local shelters. The official website for the Oregon Legislature shows no such provision whatsoever.
Critics of 3115 say this is going to end very badly, both for the communities and the homeless themselves.