Homelessness & Public Space

Following recent federal court decisions,  cities and counties must reconsidered local ordinances regulating public space and homelessness. In 2021, the Oregon Legislature enacted HB 3115, which created a state statutory standard based on federal court decisions in Martin v. Boise and Blake v. Grants Pass and directs cities to consider their local ordinances within the context of available local shelter services and public space. The LOC has published legal guidance and resources to support the implementation of HB 3115.

Martin v. Boise

In the April 2019 Martin v. City of Boise decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court ruled that homeless persons cannot be punished for sleeping outside on public property in the absence of adequate alternatives, or unless the law imposes “reasonable time, place and manner” restrictions on the regulated activities in public space. For now, this is the law in Oregon, and as a result, Oregon cities have updated their ordinances following the 2019 Martin decision and the August 2020 federal district court in Oregon’s opinion in Blake v. Grants Pass. Check out the LOC conference session links to the right for more information on recent caselaw.

HB 3115 (2021): Local Camping Ordinances

HB 3115 is the product of a workgroup involving the League of Oregon Cities (LOC) and the Oregon Law Center (OLC) as well as individual cities and counties. The workgroup spent many hours crafting a concept that recognizes a key principle from the recent Martin v. City of Boise 9th circuit court decision and Blake v. Grants Pass federal district court decision.

HB 3115 requires that any city or county law regulating the acts of sitting, lying, sleeping or keeping warm and dry outside on public property must be “objectively reasonable” based on the totality of the circumstances as applied to all stakeholders, including persons experiencing homelessness. What is objectively reasonable may look different in different communities.

The bill retains cities’ ability to enact reasonable time, place and manner regulations, aiming to preserve the ability of cities to manage public spaces effectively for the benefit of an entire community. 

HB 3115 includes a delayed implementation date of July 1, 2023, to allow local governments time to review and update ordinances and support intentional community conversations.