Thursday, March 27, 2008

We're not betting on it

From this weeks Directors Desk

The sit-lie ordinance continues to be a controversy. Seventy-nine of the 88 warnings and tickets issued under the ordinance have gone to people experiencing homelessness. According to police reports, 69 of those were either homeless or transient and 10 had no address listed at all. In fact, one individual was cited at the very location he gave police as his
address — the Portland Rescue Mission.

We assume that the number of verbal warnings given are in the hundreds and have no reason to believe that the majority aren’t against people sleeping out.

Many of the individuals who have received written warnings and tickets are what some call "frequent flyers." They are individuals who tend to rack up multiple “quality-of-life” offenses. Some for drugs and booze, others for
things like sleeping in a park or trespassing in front of a business, depends.

The business community and law enforcement have long argued that the sit-lie law is a tool to deal with Portland’s frequent flyers - mostly panhandlers, and individuals that clearly aren’t with the program. It also serves as a tool to target people sleeping on our sidewalks.

Because panhandling is a freedom of speech issue, and the camping ordinance can’t be enforced without a 24-hour notice to vacate, the sit-lie serves as a key component to move people from our public sidewalks.

It's been clearly documented by city officials that nearly 1,600 individuals are homeless after shelter beds are full. We’ve said it until we are blue in the face. That means, like it or not, that 1,600 individuals will be sleeping in our doorways, parking lots, parks, neighborhoods, and on park benches tonight.

I don’t know what else we can say. Should we call for a suspension of the ordinance? Should we respectfully decline to say anything at all? Street Roots has stood up time and again to oppose this ordinance. We’ve stood up even when it meant being accused by some of punking out after working with the Safe Access For Everyone committee (the same committee the ordinance came from) to help produce the Rose City Resource Guide.

We believe in all of the services being worked on through the SAFE committee – more park benches, public restrooms, and a day access center. How could anyone not be in support of these services that will not only help people on the skids but our community at large? We had hoped we were wrong about the ordinance. Maybe we will still be proven wrong, but looking at the way things are now, we’re not betting on it.

posted by Israel Bayer

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