There is a statewide effort to get Oregon House Bill 2215 passed in the legislature this session. Passage of HB 2215 would create the Right to Rest Act. The Right to Rest Act is also known as a Homeless Bill of Rights.
The main purpose of the bill is to stop what has become a draconian effort to address homelessness at our local city and county levels. Instead of finding real solutions to homelessness, cities and counties throughout the state have enacted ordinances that make “acts of living” like sleeping in public against the law. This includes right here in Douglas County.
Both Douglas County and the City of Roseburg have such laws, as do other cities here. Although these laws seem to apply to everyone and may seem okay on the face of them, they are used to discriminate against the homeless and criminalize homelessness. Because it is not legal under the US Constitution to make it a crime to be homeless, these jurisdictions have found other ways to make criminals out of people who don’t have a home.
Even if people do not end up being charged with a crime, the homeless are unable to pay fines imposed for violations, and this establishes additional barriers that prevent an individual from being able to get housing.
These local laws do nothing to solve the problem of homelessness but actually make matters worse with tremendous cost to the taxpayer.
HB 2215 will stop this by amending our state anti-discrimination statute ORS 659A. It adds homelessness as a protected class and protects basic rights to eat, sleep & get out of the elements.
Here is a link to the full text of the current bill, which is before the House Judiciary Committee: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/HB2215/Introduced
Highlights of Oregon Right to Rest Act:
- HB 2215 creates a broad definition of homelessness that reflects the true problem.
- HB 2215 acknowledges that current practices of using law enforcement can be redirected to providing solutions to homelessness and poverty.
- HB 2215 allows a person to rest without fear of being harassed or ticketed by local law enforcement.
- HB 2215 allows homeless individuals to use public spaces like everyone else.
- HB 2215 allows people to sleep and get out of the elements.
- HB 2215 allows people to eat, share, accept and give food.
- HB 2215 allows people to sleep in a legal vehicle on public property or private property with the owner’s permission.
Why State Law is Needed:
Here is just one example of why the Right to Rest Act is needed. Although this is about the City of Roseburg in Douglas County, these types of local laws exist all of the state of Oregon.
The City of Roseburg has various “acts of living” laws that seem to apply to everyone, but really were mainly enacted to deal with homelessness. The worst of these laws regarding the impact upon the homeless is the Roseburg Municipal Code (RMC) entitled “prohibited camping”. This law makes it illegal for anyone to “camp” in city parks or other public property within the city limits. However this law was never really for nor does it really apply to anyone but those who are homeless and/or appear to be homeless.
This RMC is so broad that just by laying a blanket down in a city owned park during the day can get one ticketed, or even banned from the park. In addition, if one has three such incidents in the downtown area, one can be banned from being downtown at all.
Individuals can make an impact by pushing this out of the House Judiciary Committee and hopefully into law this legislative session. Please contact the members of the Judiciary Committee and ask them to support the Right to Rest. Here is a link to the committee info: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Committees/HJUD/Overview
Currently there are no committee meetings planned for the bill. Hopefully with a push from us that can change.
If you would like to help or would like to get updated on this legislation, please check back here, fill out the form below or follow the Homeless Bill of Rights page on Facebook.
If you have any questions or would like more information, feel free to contact the local campaign.