SALEM, Ore. — The Salem City Council rejected a proposal to outlaw sitting or lying on city sidewalks during the day.
The council instead voted Monday to establish a task force to study homelessness in downtown and north Salem.
The Statesman Journal reports (https://is.gd/ev9Wh3 ) that members of the public expressed concern about the proposal, contending it’s unconstitutional and criminalizes homelessness.
One opponent was Samantha Klausen, whose husband co-owns a downtown business. Klausen told the council she appreciates the city’s desire to make downtown safer and more livable.
“But to hear that my city is considering a proposal that targets and dehumanizes the most vulnerable part of our population is gut-wrenching,” she said.
“I want to be proud of where I live,” she added. “But for the first time in my life, I’m embarrassed by the reputation my city is building.”
Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore supported the proposal. Rather than criminalizing homelessness, its aim, he said, was to get people off the street and into a place to live. Though Nick Williams, chief executive of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, stopped short of endorsing the ordinance, he told councilors: “To do nothing is not acceptable. Thank you for trying to do something.”
Portland once approved a similar ordinance, but it was struck down by a county judge who said it clashed with state law. Some of the language in the Salem proposal mirrored parts of Portland’s old ordinance.
Story has been corrected to show that Samantha Klausen’s husband co-owns the business
Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com