Vancouver Allows Public Camping – Here’s What Happened

A lesson for Portland?

Vancouver camp

Excerpt from Oregonian: Our Homeless Crisis: Vancouver Allows Homeless Camping, With Ugly Unintended Results By Anna Griffin Nov 7, 2015

A surprising thing happened when Vancouver leaders decided earlier this fall to lift the citywide ban on public camping:

Chaos ensued.

In just a few weeks, a residential neighborhood a 10-minute walk from the heart of downtown became host to a homeless camp that grew to 150 people. Tents lined parking strips, and sleeping bags, shopping carts, mattresses, coolers, garbage, luggage and bike frames collected on street corners. Armed volunteers showed up to keep the peace.

“As the homeless population grew in Vancouver, we’d been hearing lots of concerns about trash in the neighborhood. It would be so great to have complaints about trash now,” said Amy Reynolds, director of programs for the nonprofit that runs Share House, the shelter around which the camp formed. “Now what we’re hearing is, ‘Somebody is defecating in my yard. People are undressing outside my house. People are having domestic disputes, getting in screaming matches and physical fights, next to my parked car.’

“It doesn’t seem like it’s working for the people in the tents. It’s not working for neighbors. It’s not working for businesses. It’s not working for anyone.”

It also wasn’t what anyone expected. City leaders thought allowing public camping at night was a smart, quick response to signs that federal officials plan to crack down on communities – such as Portland and most of its suburbs — that criminalize homelessness. Advocates heralded it as a step toward new understanding and a more humane, constructive approach.

Instead, they all learned a valuable lesson: Without planning and forethought, lifting a camping ban can do more harm than good.

Full article

Oregonian: Neighbors Organize to Halt Park Chaos

Oregonian- time to say enough

A big thank you to the Oregonian Editorial Board for the thoughtful essay on how the North Park Blocks organized in response to months of illegal and menacing activity in the park. Read the full editorial here (and be sure to continue on to the comments).

Frustrated neighbors, park-area businesses, PNCA and Emerson School officials banded together to bring a unified voice to City Hall. We reached out directly to Portlanders through this blog and our Twitter account. Some have been offended by the photographs we posted, but that’s what it took to get City Hall’s attention.

As the editorial concludes:

It would go a long way in the North Park Blocks and elsewhere, meanwhile, for Portland’s mayor to channel Eugene’s just a little. Portland can, and should, provide services and compassion for the homeless. But residents, businesses and employees deserve to know in no uncertain terms that their city is equally committed to ensuring that public spaces remain safe for all members of the public. They should know that neighbors shouldn’t have to organize, tweet and blog in order to prevent public parks from slipping into chaos.