Supporters of Oregon ‘right to rest’ bill vow to keep fighting

Supporters of a bill to allow homeless individuals to camp in any public spaces vowed to keep trying during a small rally outside the Oregon Capitol on Thursday in order to prevent the bill from being scuttled.

Chaichi, Farrah Representative, from Beaverton, and her legislative aide were among 14 individuals who attended the demonstration regarding House Bill 3501, a proposal to legalize camping in public areas and enable individuals experiencing homelessness to file a lawsuit demanding $1,000 if they face harassment or are compelled to relocate.

Camping limitations for homeless encampments in close proximity to a public school, such as cities having the ability to confine homeless encampments near a public school, necessitate cities to implement laws that are “objectively reasonable” regarding the timing, location, and method of camping restrictions. If there are no shelters available, cities cannot penalize individuals for sleeping outdoors, as ruled by the courts in Portland and San Francisco, which struck down local ordinances in Boise and Grants Pass pertaining to camping. In 2021, Oregon enacted a law mandating cities to adopt laws that are “objectively reasonable” regarding the timing, location, and method of camping restrictions.

Prior to the March deadline, the legislation has remained inactive for several months due to the absence of a public hearing or vote. However, their perspective is not widely embraced in Salem: Advocates of House Bill 3501 argue that the decisions made by the court and the existing legislation fail to adequately safeguard individuals experiencing homelessness.

Chaichi said, “We have to continue going even if we have to build this in every bill, pass, and even on the streets where people are sleeping out.”

In the month of May, the House Committee on Housing and Homelessness decided to cancel an informational hearing regarding the bill due to a continuous stream of grievances and unfavorable coverage in various national media platforms. Julie Fahey, the House Majority Leader from Eugene and a Democrat, expressed in a statement that she, along with numerous other representatives from different political affiliations, were not in favor of the proposal during that period.

“Moving forward, the chair has made the decision to cancel the public hearing set for this Thursday, in support of my decision. This bill, which has become a significant distraction for all of us in this legislative session, is not supported or timed by the House Bill 3501. Given this, the chair has emphasized the importance of our work on housing policy and groundbreaking investments in this session.”

Chaichi expressed her disagreement with the notion that the bill served as a diversion during the rally on Thursday. She contended that legislators did not disregard those bills, but rather faced equal amounts of disapproval regarding bills concerning abortion and firearms.

“Fighting for the rights of individuals is not a diversion from the task,” she expressed. “It is the task.”

In the shortened 2024 session, legislators are restricted to proposing two bills since she stated her intention to reintroduce the legislation, most likely in 2025.