Oregon Democrats push to decriminalize public camping amid worsening homeless crisis

The homeless would be legally permitted to sue the state for $1,000 if they are "harassed" or forced to move.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
Democratic lawmakers in Oregon have proposed a bill that would decriminalize camping on public property and would allow homeless individuals to sue for up to $1,000 if they are "harassed" or told to relocate.
This is despite Oregonians begging for help from the government to deal with the ever-growing homeless crisis.

The “Right to Rest Act,” Oregon House Bill 3501 sponsored by Democratic state Reps. Farrah Chaichi and Khanh Pham, states that “persons experiencing homelessness” will have "a privacy interest and a reasonable expectation of privacy in any property belonging to the person, regardless of whether the property is located in a public space."

The bill adds that the homeless will "be permitted to use public spaces in the same manner as any other person without discrimination based on their housing status" and states that they have a right to "move freely in public spaces without discrimination and time limitations that are based on housing status."

Jimmy Jones, executive director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, told KATU, "Most of the advocate community in the state really want to establish a constitutional right to exist, and I am very sympathetic with that position because I don’t believe that when people lose their housing they lose their legal and constitutional rights.”

According to Oregon Public Radio, homelessness in Oregon spiked in 2022, and residents in Portland, Eugene, and other cities are desperate for relief.

Portland homeowner Jacob Adams told Fox & Friends in February "I love Portland, and I love where I live," discussing a homeless encampment next to his house, where there are regular fires and drug activity, even gunshots. "I'm asking you to please do something, so the people of the city feel safe," he pleaded.

83-year-old Vietnam veteran Armand Martens, who is neighbors with Adams told a local outlet he felt safer walking down the streets of Saigon than Portland.

According to census data, Portland lost 0.04 percent of its population after 30 years straight of growth and the general population has declined for three years in a row. Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office reported a 50 percent increase in homelessness from 2019 to 2022. 

In the college town of Eugene, squatters living in RVs have been harassing locals for two years. Eugene resident Laine Radcliffe told a local outlet earlier this month, "No one is legally supposed to be camping here, no one is supposed to be giving fellatio in the corner, no one’s supposed to be shooting up heroin in plain sight, no one’s supposed to be trespassing on our property."

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