Draft copies of proposed changes to City of Portland ordinances obtained by the organization “Enough is Enough” show city officials may be preparing to legalize loitering and camping for the Portland’s homeless population.
The drafted changes, obtained by Enough is Enough by a Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) request late last week, would alter three sections of Portland city ordinances to allow for homeless individuals to continue camping in certain areas until April 30, 2024.
The first change would add an exception for the homeless to the city’s ordinances against loitering.
The proposed change states that it “shall not be unlawful loitering for unhoused people living in the City of Portland to cause or commit any of the conditions enumerated in subsections (b)(1) and (b)(2) herein.”
Sections (b)(1) and (b)(2) of Chapter 17-1 of the Portland City Code prohibit the obstruction of public streets and sidewalks, and (b)(2) prohibits the interference of people’s use of public property.
Under the change, Portland’s homeless “shall be allowed to camp, sleep, sit, and otherwise loiter in any public place,” with the exception of Portland public school zones, Monument Square, and City Hall plaza.
Similarly to the first proposed change, the second change concerns loitering in Portland’s public parks.
This second proposed change would allow the city’s homeless to “camp, sleep, stop, loiter, and otherwise remain in any parks of the city” until April 30, 2024, with the exception of Clark Street Playground, Marada Adams Playground, Monument Square, Munjoy South Playground, Pleasant Street Playground, South Street Playground, and Tate-Tyng Playground.
Currently, the ordinance prohibits camping and loitering in the city’s public parks between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
The change would also allow homeless people to sleep in their cars in a parked vehicle in the city’s parks.
The third drafted ordinance change related to prohibitions on the obstruction of streets and public sidewalks — normally used to prohibit unauthorized events which block public ways or sidewalk signs.
The current ordinance includes exceptions for street artists who set up tables to sell their art, and political protests protected under the First Amendment.
The drafted ordinance change would add an exception for obtaining a “sidewalk occupancy permit” for “unhoused individuals living in the City of Portland who use tents, tarps, wooden pallets, sleeping bags, blankets, boxes, carts, and other equipment to create shelter for sleeping and other life-sustaining conduct in public places.”
City of Portland Spokesperson Jessica Grondin told the Maine Wire Monday that these proposed changes are expected to be on the agenda for a first read during the Nov. 13 City Council meeting, less than a week after Election Day.
These proposed changes come as the city, alongside the Maine Department of Transportation, cleared out the city’s largest homeless encampment at the Marginal Way Park and Ride on Nov. 1.
Many of the homeless individuals who lived at the Park and Ride encampment were moved to another large encampment underneath the Casco Bay Bridge.
Current city data reports a total of 208 tents throughout Portland, down from over 280 prior to the sweep of the Park and Ride encampment.
Recent efforts by the Portland City Council to expand capacity at the city’s Homeless Services Center via a limited state of emergency declaration have failed.
Below is a copy of the three drafted ordinance changes obtained by Enough is Enough: