The Department of Housing Services, in partnership with County Counsel, is leading the policy development process to prepare the Board of County Commissioners to consider enacting a new County ordinance (Ordinance #896) in compliance with House Bill 3115. HB 3115 codifies the Martin v Boise case by requiring that any Oregon jurisdictions that 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.”
Previously, Washington County did not have a public camping ordinance. This new guidance provides clarity and direction for our law enforcement partners, housing staff, and outreach workers with a clear approach to regulating camping in unincorporated Washington County.
The Department of Housing Services and County Counsel have facilitated this policy development in partnership with city jurisdictions, stakeholder departments, impacted community-based organizations, people with lived experiences and the greater public.
Ordinance 896 was adopted by the Washington County Board of Commissioners on July 18, 2023 and will go into effect on August 17, 2023.
It is expected that the ordinance will be amended as improvements are needed during the implementation phase of the ordinance, or as court rulings evolve to further define the law with a planned check in six months after Ordinance #896 is adopted.
Washington County Response to Homelessness
In response to a dramatic increase in unsheltered homelessness coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington County developed a temporary Encampment Management Program (EMP). The EMP has filled a vital role as our community faced the COVID-19 pandemic, during which public health guidance advised communities to not displace unsheltered campers to prevent the spread of the disease.
The direction provided by the Public Camping Ordinance and internal capacity within crucial departments, particularly the Sheriff’s Office and Housing, has led to the decision to sunset the Encampment Management Program and provide housing focused outreach and progressive enforcement as needed. That said, the new Public Camping Ordinance will not serve as the sole mechanism for addressing homelessness.
Homeless Services has evolved significantly over the last couple of years with a significant increase in funding provided by the regional voter-approved Supportive Housing Services measure and more recently Governor Kotek’s executive order (EO-02), in addition to existing federal funding.
With new resources and capacity coming online every day, we’ve seen the impact…
- 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.
- Data Milestone: Our Point-in-Time Count (Homeless Count) showed a decrease in unsheltered homelessness in 2023 for the first time in years.