The Oregon House on Monday approved a bill that would extend the notice period to homeless individuals before local government agencies remove an encampment from 24 hours to 72 hours.
In addition, the measure would increase the time a municipality would be required to store unclaimed personal property removed from a site from 30 days to 90 days.
House Bill 3124 passed by a vote of 39-16 and now moves to the Senate.
Rep. John Lively, a Springfield Democrat, said that while lawmakers are working on various bills relating to housing and homelessness this session, this particular piece of legislation “addresses some other aspects of how [homeless people] are treated.”
People who are currently or were previously homeless wrote the Legislature to support the bill.
“There is absolutely no good reason to perform camp sweeps without proper notice. Performing a sweep effectively evicts people from their homes. Personal belongings are often confiscated and thrown away,” Juniper Harwood, an Oregon resident who was homeless for three years, said in written testimony. “Would you want to be evicted on such short notice?”
Heather Sielicki, a Eugene human rights commissioner who works with the homeless population in the area, said extending the notice would also allow nonprofits and other organizations more time to gather and provide services to the vulnerable population.
“Twenty-four hour notice does not give resource-limited community-based organizations sufficient time to render aid,” Sielicki wrote. “Twenty-four hour notice does not acknowledge the lack of support available on a weekend, even in our larger municipalities.”
If the bill ultimately passes, a 72-hour notice would be posted on the entrances of the encampment, and local agencies that deliver social services to individuals, including arranging shelter, would be notified.
During the camp removal all unclaimed personal property — except for belongings in unsanitary conditions, weapons, drug paraphernalia and items that appear to be either stolen or evidence of a crime — would be stored by the municipality for 90 days for the owners to reclaim.
However, some argued that the extensions would be challenging, unnecessary and not feasible.
Among them was Lucas Hillier, the program manager for the city of Portland Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program. For the past six years, the program has been responsible for coordinating the cleanup of campsites in Portland.
Hillier said in written testimony that currently the program gives a 48-hour notice.
“We have found that to be a good balance to provide individuals enough advance notice while at the same time still allowing us to be response when necessary,” Hillier said.
Hillier along with Republican Rep. Kim Wallan raised concerns that the extended 72-hour notice could create challenges in intervening earlier in “severe” circumstances.
Under the proposed bill, a 72-hour notice would not be required when there are illegal activities at the site, possible contamination by hazardous materials or when there is immediate danger to human life or safety.
Hillier said that in addition, holding property for an additional two months may not be feasible.
“In the overwhelming majority of instances, people collect their belongings within days of the cleanup,” Hillier said. “The city would need to triple the capacity of our current 5,500 [square foot] storage facility at a significant cost.”
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