Below is a brief overview of the Ordinance 896, which regulates camping on public property in unincorporated areas of Washington County. You can view the Ordinance here.
When Shelter is Available...
Under the ordinance, restrictions are based on available shelter capacity. Camping is prohibited on public property when shelter is available. The shelter must be reasonably accessible to the individual camper.
When Shelter is Not Available...
When shelter is not reasonably accessible (as defined in the ordinance) to an individual camper the sections that regard reasonable time, place and manner restrictions included below apply.
When shelter is unavailable, camping is limited to five calendar days in any otherwise allowable location or manner. After the five-day period, individuals camping must move at least 500 feet (1.4 football fields) away from their current camping location.
- Place (location)
When shelter is unavailable, camping on public property would be allowed, subject to restrictions:
- the public right-of-way, with restrictions
- most other public property (excluding the locations listed below)
Camping would never be allowed in these places, even if there is no accessible shelter option:
- tax foreclosure properties,
- within 500 ft of designated shelters, locations providing services to houseless individuals, schools, day care facilities and family day care providers,
- locations with a “planned” or limited public purpose and/or managed emergency locations, and
- any property designated or operated by Clean Water Services or any agency of the State of Oregon as a riparian corridor, flood plain, or drainage area, a water quality sensitive area, vegetated corridor, sensitive habitat or significant natural resource area.
- Manner (Ways)
When shelter is unavailable, camping may occur in allowed locations, for up to five days, in these manners:
- individuals camping on public property are only allowed “essentials” (i.e., sleeping bag, food and water) for living outside,
- individual camping area should be no larger than 144 square feet,
- actions that may cause health and safety risks such as waste accumulation, non-cooking use of fire, dumping water used for cooking or cleaning, digging, and criminal activity are prohibited, and
- any camping in the public right-of-way must protect road safety for vehicles and the traveling public (i.e., bikes and pedestrians) and safety of individuals camping.
The goal of enforcement is to seek and gain compliance with the ordinance regulating camping on public property to ensure community safety. Enforcement in the ordinance recommends a “progressive enforcement” model where law enforcement will engage with individuals if camping is prohibited by first providing warnings, and then issuing violations if necessary. Violations may include a civil infraction or in extreme circumstances a citation or arrest for criminal trespassing.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office employs Homeless Outreach Programs and Engagement (HOPE) deputies with specific training around engaging people experiencing homelessness and partners with homeless services agencies to connect individuals to shelter or housing.