Oregon Lawmakers Want to Decriminalize Homeless Camps

  • Oregon lawmakers have proposed a bill to decriminalize homeless encampments.
  • The Right to Rest Act would allow the unhoused to sue if they are harassed while camped in public spaces.
  • Oregon has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country. 

Oregon lawmakers have proposed a bill that would decriminalize homeless camps and allow unhoused people to sue if they are forced to leave.

The Right to Rest Act, or HB 3501, is sponsored by Democrats Rep. Farrah Chaichi and Rep. Khanh Pham and will be debated during a hearing next week. If passed, the bill would grant unhoused parties the right to sue for up to $1,000 if they are harassed, the Washington Examiner reported. 

“Decriminalization of rest allows local governments to redirect resources from local law enforcement activities to activities that address the root causes of homelessness and poverty,” the bill says.

Oregon has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the United States. The number of unhoused people in the state rose by 23% between 2020 and 2022, according to The Oregonian, far higher than the national average. A shortage of housing, as well as the high cost of what little housing there is, is a major factor in the rise in homelessness. 

The bill also blames a “disintegrating social safety net.”

The ongoing crisis has been the subject of heated debate in the state, particularly in Portland. Some residents complain that the homeless population is driving up crime and some have even considered leaving the state, according to the Washington Examiner. A number of residents have expressed their opposition to the bill.

“It makes you not feel that great about living here. It makes living in the neighborhood harder, not as congenial as it could be,” a Portland resident who lives near a homeless encampment told the Examiner last year. “It’s the first time in a long time that we’ve actually seriously thought about moving.”

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