The old ordinance titled the Obstruction as Nuisance ordinance was declared unconstitutional in 2003. In short, the city rewrote the ordinance, but the police and the Portland Business Alliance didn't like it. It was too restrictive. The ordinance was reworked by the SAFE (Safe Access for Everyone) committee - a group of 27 stakeholders representing different factions throughout the city. The committee has made their recommendations, and everything is fine, right?
Nope, wait a minute, everything is not fine. The SR editorial from Nov 1 sums up why the recommendations fall short.
More than that, aren't we rushing to some major conclusions?
The committee has set some goals in exchange for making it illegal to sit, or lie down on a sidewalk.
1.) Implement a Plan that lays out a plan to create a Day Center for people on the streets.
(2.) Provide adequate public seating, and benches for people to sit, or lie down on.
3.) Implement a public restroom plan to implement more public restrooms downtown.
4.) Implement an oversight committee to make sure the deals go down.
On its face, it's great. Am I for a Day Access Center, of course, more benches, yes, public restrooms downtown, absolutely. Am I for creating an environment where people on the streets, and other groups of people can't hang around, absolutely not? I thought we are trying to keep Portland weird. Did I miss something?
A day center is an approach that has been tried since the Civil War on homeless folks. Ultimately, it fails every time unless it's a place where people on the streets have power. Try creating a Union Hall for people and you might be on to something, but just another resting spot without real solutions is a wash. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying it's not a great thing. I'm just saying it's not a solution. And more so, what happens when people who are sitting, or lying on a sidewalk don't want to go to a day center? Are we saying poor people shouldn't have the same access to a public sidewalk as anyone else? Of course not, that's where the public benches come in.
Ok, so we have around 2,000 people on the streets at any given time in Portland. Are you telling me a few benches sprinkled in a downtown that will be dealing with mass construction on sidewalks over the next couple of years is sufficient for people who don't want to go to a day center? Seems like a stretch to me.
On to public restrooms. The same poor people who won't be allowed to hang out on sidewalks, and will be "recommended" to go to a day center can finally have restrooms available to them after they are asked to leave the area? I don't get it.
The bottom line is the we have leveraged 2,000 individuals civil rights in exchange for projects a smart city would already have in place.
If you ask me, sit where you want. And take them to court if they tell you differently!