On July 18, 2023 the Washington County Board of Commissioners adopted Ordinance 896 to regulate public camping. This ordinance comes after a lengthy policy development process to seek compliance with House Bill 3115. HB 3115 codifies the Martin v Boise decision by requiring Oregon jurisdictions to regulate when, where and how people experiencing homelessness are allowed to sleep on public property when there is no available shelter option. This policy requirement is generally known as “Time, Place and Manner.”
Prior to adopting Ordinance 896, Washington County did not have a public camping ordinance and provided limited services to address immediate health and safety needs at existing encampments. With new resources coming online in recent years, including the regional voter-approved Supportive Housing Services measure and more recently Governor Kotek’s executive order (EO-02), Washington County has made significant strides towards reducing homelessness with expanded shelter and housing programs
In June, the Washington County Encampment Management Program (EMP) closed the largest encampment in unincorporated Washington County, located off of Highway 47 near Forest Grove. By partnering with outreach providers, shelter operators and law enforcement, staff was able to offer every individual staying at the Highway 47 encampment with shelter and housing options.
Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington shares, “I am proud to see the programs that end homelessness including rental assistance, shelter and housing case management, are up and running here in Washington County. By regulating public camping, we provide clarity for our partners and unhoused residents while ensuring unsheltered people in our community are quickly connected with existing services.”
The ordinance may be amended as adjustments are needed during the implementation phase of the ordinance, or as court rulings evolve to further define the law. Staff is planning a check in with community members, outreach providers and law enforcement six months after Ordinance 896 is adopted.
To learn more about the Public Camping Ordinance 896, please visit our website.
HOUSING SERVICES BY THE NUMBERS
- Shelter capacity: Washington County went from having extremely limited shelter options in 2021, to offering 426 shelter beds/rooms countywide to address a wide variety of needs and family types.
- Housing success: In 2022 alone, Washington County successfully helped nearly 1,300 people transition from homelessness into stable, long-term housing.
- Outreach approach: Starting in 2022, Washington County streamlined our approach to outreach services, contracting with 10 outreach providers who focus on specific geographic areas or specific populations. These providers work with our local law enforcement agencies and shelter system to resolve unsheltered homelessness.
- Data milestone: Our Point-in-Time Count (Homeless Count) showed a decrease in unsheltered homelessness in 2023 for the first time in years.