PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland police officers arrested five people on Wednesday during a mission to enforce a city law that keeps people from camping on city sidewalks during the day.
Mayor Charlie Hales said Wednesday morning that Portland is expanding a program aimed at reducing the number of people living on sidewalks. People will no longer be allowed to live on the sidewalks for weeks or months at a time. Protesting will still be allowed, and homeless people will still be allowed to sleep on the sidewalk at night.
Specifically, the city will be enforcing an ordinance that prohibits camping on public property and rights of way. City Hall isn't the only location - a sign was taped up under the overpass at S.E. Morrison and Water Ave.
A police spokesman said officers arrested five people on Wednesday on camping charges, having an illegal structure, meth charges, a warrant and other charges.
“This is about lawlessness; this is about activities that are appropriate and inappropriate in the right-of-way,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “Some of the people involved have said that the laws don’t apply to them. And they’re wrong.”
The city began a push to clear the sidewalks in July. City law says that between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. people can't camp; they must have their personal property ready to move. During the night a person can roll out a sleeping bag and sleep on the sidewalk.
"They're approaching it wrong," said Kaylen Fate, who was camping on a city sidewalk. "But a lot of time we are too, I feel like. And I feel like we could all just find a middle ground if we really wanted to."
Police have been monitoring problematic sidewalks, keeping track of people who remained in one place and had big piles of belongings.
On Wednesday, police planned to go back and tell those people they were in violation of city ordinances and had to move.
"Where is everybody supposed to go?' asked camper Mike Hanson. "There is a bunch of people. What are they going to do?"
The city said it worked with the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office to determine who can be cited.
“We started at City Hall because of the many police calls,” Hales said. “Also, this is the people’s building, so there was an urgent need to start here. We’re rolling this out slowly and methodically. We’re taking our time and doing this right.”