Council to consider ban on camping in public areas

A camping site found in a Keizer park several years ago.

The Keizer City Council will consider a resolution to ban camping on sidewalks, public property and public rights-of-way at its meeting Monday, Jan. 6.

“Providing a balance of compassion to homeless persons and the negative effects of public camping is difficult, and a full comprehensive solution is hard to reach. I reviewed recent Salem ordinances and believe it is appropriate to adopt a camping prohibition similar to Salem’s,” wrote City Attorney Shannon Johnson in a staff report ahead of the potential action.

In December, the Salem City Council adopted a resolution banning camping in publicly-owned areas but also directed city employees to report on what public property could be used as an impromptu camping ground. To date, the city has not located a suitable space.

Salem’s city councilors also authorized more than $200,000 to open two of the existing warming shelter locations beginning Jan. 1 through the end of Mar. 2020. 

The ordinance to be considered by Keizer councilors states “The City of Keizer is a compassionate City, and desires to help persons experiencing residential instability or homelessness, to transition to safe and permanent housing. However, allowing camping on our public sidewalks, public property, and public rights-of-way in our neighborhoods, and in other areas of our city does not help people transition to housing and has a detrimental effect on the economic vitality of the city, and the public safety and welfare.”

The ordinance recites – at length – the ways in which city officials view such camps as a public nuisance and potential health risk. If the ordinance is passed, such camps would be subject to abatement (removal) under state statutes, but no penalties are identified for individuals found in violation.

The city already has a resolution in place allowing the city manager to designate city-owned properties, such as parks and the civic center property as closed at certain times. Those found in violation of that resolution are subject to arrest.