Over 200 people testify at Portland City Council over proposed camping ban


PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) – Portlanders made their voices heard over what could be very bold steps taken by the city to manage homeless encampments.

On the city’s website, over 200 people were signed up to testify in front of Portland City Council Wednesday night. One of them is Scott Kerman, the director of Blanchet House, a large local nonprofit in Old Town that provides meals and services for those living on the streets. He says a camping ban may create unnecessary conflict.

“Arresting or ticketing is not going to be a solution to the situation, and it’s not a very compassionate response,” said Kerman. “The 500-person camps are not going to be the solution for those people. Putting them in the judicial system through arrest is going to exacerbate the problem.”

Kerman says he supports the resources the proposal would help provide, but feels massive sanctioned campsites, at locations yet to be determined, could actually be harmful for some who’ve had bad experiences in homeless shelters.

“They may have actually been victimized in congregate settings and have a lot of anxiety and PTSD about going to locations like that,” said Kerman.  “The other is folks with really profound mental illness.”

At City Hall, the first group to testify in person supported the mayor’s plan. Many were suffering from physical disabilities. Cody Hemmerling, who suffers from blindness, says the camps near where he lives have limited his mobility.

“Pretty much been forced to be walking in the street as opposed to a sidewalk,” said Hemmerling. “Not being able to see anything at all,  it’s pretty perturbing.”

Barbara Jacobsen, an Old Town resident, said it has been a constant struggle navigating her wheelchair around encampments.

“It’s hard to maneuver through the tents,” said Jacobsen.  “One day they’re somewhere, the next day they’re somewhere else. We have an encampment that’s been there 12 years on the corner.”

The City of Portland was hit with a recent lawsuit, saying it has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by allowing camping on sidewalks, which those behind the lawsuit say poses dangers for people in wheelchairs and those with other disabilities.

The council said the proposals will get a final vote on Thursday, Nov. 3.


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