SALEM, Ore. – Eugene-based CAHOOTS is speaking out in support of a new bill that could bring an end to homeless sweeps statewide.
House Bill 2367, called the ‘Right to Rest Act,’ is sponsored by Rep. Wlnsvey Campos (D-Aloha).
If passed, it would be illegal for homeless people to face civil or criminal penalties for their use of public spaces, as long as they’re not being disruptive.
Ahead of public testimony on the bill earlier this week, Campos said current laws discriminate against homeless people who sit, lie down or eat in public.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon found cities and counties in the state had more than 200 laws that criminalize those types of basic activities.
“Eating food and drinking liquids, getting sufficient rest, having adequate clothing and shelter, using a restroom, access to basic sanitation and health and safety - these are basic human needs and fundamental human rights for all Oregonians,” said Sandy Chung of the ACLU of Oregon.
A crisis counselor for CAHOOTS testified that such restrictions can interfere with their crisis response work.
“A client who was managing in the face of already enormous obstacles is often thrown into acute crisis and is at even higher risk for mental health crisis, overdose, hypothermia and even death,” said Berkley Carnine, CAHOOTS crisis counselor.
The vast majority of public comments were supportive of the legislation, but those who opposed it said the bill does nothing to address the real issue of a lack of housing options for the homeless. Others said it would make public spaces less accessible for the general population.
More public hearings on the bill are expected in the future.