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 in compliance with House Bill 3115. HB3115 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 do so in an objectively reasonable manner. This policy requirement is generally known as “Time, Place and Manner.” Local ordinances, if any, must be compliant by July 1, 2023.
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. This engagement process ensures transparency, community involvement, and the development of an equitable community-informed policy for the Board’s consideration and action ahead of the state deadline.
This ordinance will regulate camps and camping in unincorporated Washington County on public property including county-owned buildings, parking lots, natural areas and parks, tax foreclosed properties, lands purchased for public projects, and the public right-of-way. The City of Hillsboro and City of Beaverton are currently engaging in their own public process to craft similar ordinances within city limits. Other cities may adopt similar ordinances as well.
In response to a dramatic increase in unsheltered homelessness coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington County developed a pilot Encampment Management Program (EMP). The EMP focused on addressing immediate health and safety needs posed by encampments on public property including routine health and safety risk assessments of existing encampments, limited on-site sanitation services (including bathrooms and trash pickup) and clean ups as needed. 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.
Service expansion for unhoused people is rapidly growing as the County threads together existing resources with a significant increase in funding provided by the regional voter-approved Supportive Housing Services measure. With these new and existing resources, Washington County has added 427 shelter beds/units and is in the process of funding seven permanent shelter buildings to preserve and expand this capacity.
Washington County funded shelters provide a low barrier steppingstone that can offer that initial stabilization, as our shelter guests move towards long-term housing solutions. In 2022 alone, Washington County supported almost 1,300 individuals moving from homelessness into stable housing. Some of these individuals accessed shelter during that journey and others were able to transition directly into long-term housing.
Governor Kotek's state of emergency related to unsheltered homelessness through Executive Order (EO) 23-02 will provide additional funding for state and local agencies to address unsheltered homelessness.
With the end of COVID era public health guidance, direction from HB 3115, and expanded housing and shelter programs in place to help unsheltered people Washington County is taking steps to regulate camping on public property. The draft ordinance will be considered by the Washington County Board of Commissioners later this spring, with implementation anticipated to begin in summer 2023. We recognize the challenge in balancing the needs of our whole community, housed and unhoused, and look forward to additional feedback from the Board of County Commissioners and all community members to support the implementation of this future policy.