Coalition sues Portland, Hales over homeless policy

The Safe & Livable Portland coalition filed the suit Wednesday

A homeless camper was shot in SE Portland, Mar. 31, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Mayor Charlie Hales and the City of Portland are being sued over homeless policies that allow transients to sleep on local sidewalks or public rights of way as part of a 6-month “experiment”.

The Safe & Livable Portland coalition filed its lawsuit Wednesday, calling Mayor Hales’ steps to curb the homeless problem in Portland an “abuse of power” and an “authoritarian act”.

“You should not experiment on people,” said Susan Steward of the Building Owners and Managers Association, one of several groups behind the lawsuit.

Steward was referring to the “Safe Sleep Policy” Mayor Hales enacted in February. The “experiment” allows the homeless to pitch tents and sleep on public sidewalks.

It passed without any community input or a City Council vote.

BOMA and other businesses that make up the Safe & Livable Portland coalition claim Mayor Hales abused his power and broke state law in passing the legislation.

“What’s so great about Portland is there’s always a public process. There are always committees and we have input. We don’t always get what we want, but at least we’re listened to,” Steward said. “There was nothing. All of a sudden this just happened.”

The Overlook Neighborhood Association, a plaintiff in the suit, says homeless camps in the area are out of control. Members are calling the city out for not listening.

“City hall has not been engaging with neighborhoods, businesses and residents of Portland in developing a comprehensive strategy to helping our homeless communities,” Overlook neighborhood resident Chris Trejbal said.

Trejbal says the biggest concern is that Mayor Hales acted alone.

“We aren’t a city that gives one man, the mayor, complete authority over how we’re going to deal with a challenge to the city of such tremendous scope,” Trejbal said.

A spokesperson for Hales’ office said the mayor was unavailable for comment.

The city does not otherwise comment on pending litigation.

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