State Seeks Action On Homelessness

Seaside — Restrooms, showers, transportation. They seem like basic needs but for the unsheltered and unhoused, they are out of reach.

House Bill 2006 requires local governments to approve applications for emergency shelter, regardless of any land use laws, if the application meets criteria in the bill, League of Oregon Cities’ Ariel Nelson said.

Emergency shelters must be located within an urban growth boundary or area zoned for rural residential use; comply with applicable building codes; and include sleeping and restroom facilities and adequate transportation access to commercial and medical services.“This is in recognition that oftentimes our state land use process that’s implemented at the local level has provided a barrier for when we’re looking to quickly approve or site things like affordable housing and shelter,” Nelson, a lobbyist and lawyer, said.

The 2021 legislative session was a landmark for housing and homelessness, Nelson said. The Legislature approved a combined $765 million dollars for affordable, permanent housing, homeless services, tenant support and more.

The need is acute, and not just in the big cities, Nelson said at Seaside’s fourth forum on homelessness, held at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center on July 1.

Twenty-five percent of people experiencing homelessness are in the Portland metro area. The rest are around the state, with the majority of that population — more than 3,000 people — in coastal counties and in Southern Oregon, Nelson said. Coastal counties also see large concentrations of children living on their own or experiencing homelessness.

At an earlier forum, Amy Baker of Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare said Clatsop County has “by far” the greatest per capita rate of homelessness of any Oregon county.

House Bill 3115 aims to protect unsheltered Oregonians from fines or arrest for sleeping or camping on public property when there are no other options.

The bill will bring more clarity to city ordinances that regulate these activities, Nelson said, clearly saying where and when camping activities are allowed and where they’re not.

“It recognizes that what’s objectively reasonable is going to look different in different communities,” she said. “It’s going to look different for a community like Seaside with your different factors, your size, than what’s going to make sense in Portland, in Medford, or the eastern side of the state.”

Cities and counties must comply by July 2023.

House Bill 3124, a change to an existing law, says that if local government or law enforcement is going to sweep or remove people from an established campsite, they have to provide more advanced notice.

“That used to be 24 hours, and that’s now been extended to 72 hours to post notice,” Nelson said.

House Bill 2100 looks at modernizing Oregon’s homelessness system, how state and federal funds are disbursed around the state.

This was the fourth and final forum in this series, presented by Mayor Jay Barber and City Councilor Tita Montero. With information from the events, the city intends to develop strategies to address the homeless in Seaside.

“Whatever we do going forward, it’s going to require a number of groups and organizations working together and not-for-profit groups, churches, with the city, the county, all of us working together,” Mayor Jay Barber said. “It is not something that a single group can deal with and solve.”

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