AP NEWS

Salem to reconsider homeless camping ban

January 28, 2020 GMT

SALEM, Ore. (AP) —

The City Council in Salem, Oregon, is reconsidering its homeless camping ban.

Since the ban took effect in mid-December the city has been scrambling to find options where to put the roughly 300 homeless people who have been living on downtown sidewalks.

The Statesman Journal reports that Councilor Tom Anderson moved to have the city council consider limiting its camping ban to downtown, city parks and residentially zoned neighborhoods at its Feb. 10 meeting.

Anderson said he also isn’t opposed to looking at the tabled sit-lie ordinance, which would prohibit people from gathering on sidewalks in downtown as they have been.

But altering the camping ban wouldn’t set up a tent city in Salem, either. The city looked at possible locations for a temporary shelter.

The Marion County Juvenile Detention Facility at 3030 Center Street NE was deemed unacceptable as a temporary shelter. The 27,000 square foot building is unoccupied, scheduled for demolition and has the correct zoning, but the surrounding campus is used by Marion County’s Juvenile Department to house at-risk youth.

The city has looked at easing its restrictions on campsites in industrial areas, but a report by city manager Powers said easing those restrictions will not change behaviors that led to large campsites, such as the one that formed in front of the ARCHES building in downtown Salem.

“As a practical matter, that’s where we are,” councilor Jim Lewis said. “Do you think it’s better to have people sitting on the sidewalks of downtown Salem or would it be better for them to be sitting in tents?”