Blair Best (KGW)
ASTORIA, Ore. (KGW) — The city of Astoria is limiting the hours people can camp on public property in order to cut down the number of people sleeping outside local businesses and parks for long periods of time.
An ordinance passed during last week’s city council meeting only allows people to camp on public property between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. People are allowed to use small tents, tarps and sleeping bags but can’t take up more than 50 feet of space.
“This doesn’t help nothing,” said Rob, who lived on the streets for seven years.
He and others stood outside in the rain on Commercial Street Tuesday near one of the city’s only organizations that provides food, clothes and hygiene supplies to homeless people.
“There are places to go in the daytime. There’s really no place to go at night,” added John, who lived on the streets in Astoria for 10 years.
“I don’t feel like it’s a good idea for the city to say you can’t be someplace if there’s not a designated place for someone to be,” said Osarch Orak, who runs Life Boat Services, a homeless services organization that feeds about 30-50 people per day.
Orak doesn’t believe the city’s new ordinance is fair.
“It really sucks,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s inhumane. It’s moving people along, displacing people so they can go to the next place to get displaced from.”
Others told KGW many living on the streets don’t keep up with the changing ordinances and rules.
“The problem is nobody knows when or where this stuff’s happening at,” said Rob.
“People are going to sleep when and where they want to. They really can’t stop that. A lot of people living on the streets are on their last leg. I know quite a few people out here that know they’re dying,” he added.
Others say there should be some regulations when it comes to public camping.
“I think there has to be some limits,” said John, who now lives in a nearby hotel. “There needs to be a place where they can congregate, and usually that’s one of the public parks.”
Astoria’s police department receives calls every day from residents and business owners complaining about those living on the streets.
“Sometimes it’s quality of life issues, behavioral type things, public intoxication,” said interim police chief Eric Halverson.
“I think that the ordinance will give us another tool to address some of the camping issues. However, it’s not a permanent solution,” he added.
Astoria Mayor Bruce Jones said the ordinance addresses some residents’ safety concerns.
“Some of these groups of unhoused people have made our residents and visitors and business owners feel unsafe, and that’s unacceptable,” Jones said. “I certainly see there’s arguments on both sides, and I understand the folks who are advocates for the unhoused don’t want any ordinances that place any restrictions whatsoever on camping. But from the perspective from our residents and visitors and business owners, it’s unacceptable to have people simply allowed to camp out for long periods of time.”
In July, the city will discuss a list of public places where camping will also soon be prohibited.
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