A group of Portland volunteers is suing the city over a policy that restricts people from providing social services at city parks.
The policy will allow only one social service activity in each city park per week. It will also require groups to apply for and obtain a “social service permit.”
The volunteers in the lawsuit work with groups like Free Hot Soup and Help 4 Houseless, which distribute items like food, clothing and groceries to people.
According to the lawsuit, the volunteers said some city employees have distributed flyers with general information about the policy and stated to them that enforcement will begin Sunday.
A plaintiff in the lawsuit is Elly Adelman, a volunteer with Free Hot Soup. She also distributes warm clothing to people in the winter at Director Park.
“She opposes the Social Service Permit policy because it would make it impossible for her and others to continue to consistently and predictably share food with others in public parks,” the complaint states, “and the bonds that she has created with people with whom she shares food will be broken.”
Attorneys with the Oregon Justice Resource Center are representing the volunteers.
“The limited text provided to the public describes a permitting policy that is, on its face, an unlawful restraint aimed directly at limiting protected expressive activity by Plaintiffs and anyone else in Portland who does or may want to provide ‘social services’ to others in public parks,” the lawsuit reads.
The complaint claims the city’s policy violates the volunteers’ rights to free speech and assembly and is unconstitutional under the equal protection clause — as it would specifically harm people experiencing homelessness.