Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to ban homeless camps along school routes


A posting is taped near a group of tents in downtown Portland, giving notice that the area will be swept, May 20, 2022.

A posting is taped near a group of tents in downtown Portland, giving notice that the area will be swept, May 20, 2022.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler plans to ban homeless camps along school routes, according to a draft emergency declaration leaked Thursday.

The order would ban encampments within 150 feet of school buildings and along routes where students are likely to be walking to school. The Portland Bureau of Transportation had previously designated these paths “primary investment routes” and targeted them for traffic safety projects. Any campsites along the routes will be prioritized for removal, Wheeler’s order states.

The emergency declaration was first reported by the Oregonian/OregonLive.

The order states the ban is necessary to protect school-age children walking along routes with “potentially dangerous hazards as a result of encampments, including trash, tents in the right of way, biohazards, hypodermic needles, etc.”

It’s the second time the mayor has tapped specific routes designated by the city’s transportation bureau for traffic safety initiatives and used them to expand a ban on homeless encampments. The mayor issued an emergency order in February banning people experiencing homelessness from camping next to freeways and along high-crash corridors, the first in a string of emergency orders aimed at public camping. The order fell flat with many who camped outdoors, with some returning to their old sites and others moving to different, but equally dangerous, roadways.

Portland’s transportation bureau said they have not been consulted on either of the mayor’s bans.

Wheeler’s latest order is certain to anger homeless advocates, who have long criticized his administration for forcing people from their encampments without providing an alternative place to go. The mayor’s previous emergency order banning people from busy roadways prompted a rebuttal from 25 transportation and homeless advocacy organizations.

A spokesperson for Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees the transportation bureau, said they were first informed of the declaration Wednesday evening.

This story may be updated.


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