I thought it was illegal to sit or lie on a public sidewalk. Didn't the City pass a Sidewalks and Public Spaces Ordinance?
Yes, and, required conditions must be met before the ordinance can be enforced. The conditions require the City to expand daytime shelter space that is protected from the elements, includes access to toilets, and be available from 7 am to 9 pm, seven days a week.
We have seen a growth in day center and overnight shelter in Salem. Toilets are at these facilities. Why isn't that enough?
Day center services are not available for the full hours needed. On most days, there is not adequate shelter for women, persons with challenging care needs, people in need of addiction recovery treatment programs and other services. Many report to us they have nowhere else to go. Others are seriously impacted by past trauma, creating large barriers to stepping indoors to temporary shelter or permanent housing. Different, more intensive services are what is needed and often not available.
Will the ordinance ensure there is not camping on the sidewalks?
No. Effective behavioral change and enforcement solutions are also needed. In Oregon, we cannot legally compel a person to access much-needed services. In some cases, the ordinance would allow the City to impose a $250 fine – however, we find this does not change behavior for persons already deeply in debt or experiencing significant behavioral health issues.
Can people be taken to jail for violation of the Sidewalks and Public Spaces ordinances?
No. The act of living or camping on a sidewalk or a park is not a jailing offense. Limited jail beds are used for housing people who are a threat to public safety based upon behaviors. Further, jailing a person for living outdoors creates the unintended consequence of furthering their inability to access employment, housing and other positive steps toward self-sufficiency.
What about parks? It is illegal to camp in a park. Why is camping in parks allowed?
City parks are open to the public during daylight hours, but closed after dark. Park rules limit activities associated with camping, such as digging, damaging trees and vegetation, and littering. The City concludes camping at parks as resources allow. Concluding camping in an area involves:
- Resource navigators, to connect people to services
- Police, to ensure the safety of all present
- Cleaning teams, to remove abandoned property and garbage
Enforcement and clean up are recurring activities. A more durable solution to these problems includes addressing the root causes of homelessness and provides more temporary shelter.
How long before parks and sidewalks can be for their intended uses?
That depends on how quickly our objectives can be completed. We have a three-step plan, and achievement of the plan is necessary to successful deter use of parks and sidewalk for shelter.
- retain the current expansion of street outreach
- expand alternative shelter and housing options
- expand enforcement and cleaning resource teams