Oregon lawmakers approve measure to increase notice before sweeping homeless camps

By Lauren Dake (OPB)
April 20, 2021 12:25 a.m.

Oregon lawmakers in the House approved a measure Monday to increase the amount of time people who are unhoused receive before being forced to move.

The measure, House Bill 3124, would require notice be posted at the entrance and exit of a homeless encampment for 72 hours before sweeping the area.


If passed, the bill would also require making it clear where people’s belongings are stored if they are confiscated during the sweep. The measure mandates personal items be stored for 90 days in the same community where the person was living.

Rep. John Lively, D-Springfield, sponsored the bill and said it was about treating those living without shelter with more humanity. Increasing the notice requirements, he said, would also help groups in the community, such as nonprofits, help the people living in the camp find some place else to go before being displaced.

Tents at Whoville, a homeless site in Eugene during a visit by Think Out Loud producers in January 2014. The camp was taken down by police in April 2014 and then re-established in November of that same year.

Tents at Whoville, a homeless site in Eugene during a visit by Think Out Loud producers in January 2014. The camp was taken down by police in April 2014 and then re-established in November of that same year.

Julie Sabatier / OPB

In written testimony, Juniper Harwood, told lawmakers she spent three years living on the streets.

“There is absolutely no good reason to perform camp sweeps without proper notice. Performing a sweep effectively evicts people from their homes. Personal belongings are often confiscated and thrown away. Would you want to be evicted on such short notice? Would you know where to go or what to do? What if you were simply removed and weren’t given answers or proper resources, or you were told you should’ve left faster?” she wrote in a letter to lawmakers.


Several people submitted testimony urging for larger solutions, such as stopping camp sweeps all together or finding more long-term housing solutions so people don’t have to live on the street. But others testifying believed the bill was a step in the right direction.

The current notice requirement is 24 hours.

Leigh Galbraith, from Eugene, submitted testimony saying increasing it to 72 hours would give people time “to gather their belongings and homes so that they do not lose all that they have.”

Some said the bill requirements go too far. The city of Portland currently provides 48 hours before sweeping camps.

In written testimony, Lucas Hillier, the program manager for the City of Portland Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program, said the 48 hours posting is more workable, providing balance between giving “individuals enough advance notice while at the same time still allowing us to be respons(ive) when necessary.”

The storage requirements of the measure are also burdensome, Hillier wrote.

“Currently, the City of Portland will hold an individual’s possessions for 30 days. In the overwhelming majority of instances, people collect their belongings within days of the cleanup. The City would need to triple the capacity of our current 5,500 sf storage facility at a significant cost as it is a leased space ($80,000 annually),” he wrote.

The 72-hour posting requirement would not be mandatory if there is a public health emergency or when there are other safety emergencies.

The bill now heads to the Senate.


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