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Oregon legislature sends homeless removal bill to Governor

February 27, 2018

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon legislators have sent a proposal to Governor Kate Brown that would allow the state’s largest city to coordinate with the Department of Transportation to remove homeless encampments.

After the House approved the bill last week, the Senate approved it unanimously Monday, sending it to the governor for her signature.

Under the measure, Portland and the state Department of Transportation would be allowed to join forces in removing homeless encampments. Proponents said removing the encampments is complicated when they spread across city and state lands, which are often adjacent, such as around overpasses and pedestrian trails.

The City of Portland supported the bill, and a spokesman for Mayor Ted Wheeler said it would allow the city to offer its expertise in social services to a state agency more focused on bricks and mortar.

But advocates for the homeless were skeptical that broad language in the bill could be used to simply speed removals by allowing the city and the transportation department to present a united front.

The bill’s sponsor in the Senate, Democrat Rod Monroe, acknowledged in an earlier hearing that part of the purpose of the bill was to help the agency and the city coordinate in uniformly prohibiting encampments, and to keep the homeless from evading sweeps by simply moving across property lines. In later remarks, Monroe added that the main goal is to make it easier to provide services to the homeless.

The bill also sets uniform timelines for notifying camp residents, holding and returning belongings after sweeps, and postponing sweeps during severe weather.

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