Two places to go and no staying in one spot is the basis of a new homeless ordinance passed by the City of Madras Tuesday.
The new law says camping is prohibited on all city property one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset, except for two designated areas.
The ordinance allows the homeless to live on city property adjacent to the Willow Creek area and west of the city’s new homeless service center, which is under construction on the Third Street right of way.
The ordinance says the homeless have to gather their belongings every day and move to a new location.
“It allows the city to be compliant with the case law and state law,” said Madras Community Development Director Nick Snead. “Secondly, it clearly identifies where the homeless can go to camp should they need to. And then, three, in so doing, it allows us to make sure to minimize the impact to our businesses, to our neighborhoods and in our industrial areas where we have a lot of our large employers.”
The public got a chance to have their say on the matter Tuesday.
“They’re a friends’ family, ” said a homeless commenter to the City Council. “I don’t have a family. This is what I got.”
“There seems to be a special, privileged class of people that lie without any responsibility. They don’t obey any laws,” said another commenter.
Before the vote, council members got a chance to share their own thoughts on the new rules.
“It’s a living document,” said Councilor Gabriel Soliz. “It is something that we can adopt and adapt and modify as the time goes on.”
“We have to prove this ordinance because of the law that was coming. But basically, we wouldn’t have done anything until the shelter came in,” said Councilor Patricia Spencer.
“Moving them every day, I am not in support of,” said Councilor Jennifer Holcomb.
“The path to hell is paved with good intentions,” said Councilor Mike Seibold. “So that is not a viable option. We can’t just carve out a part of the city and make it a homeless tent.”
The ordinance passed, despite two votes against it. It goes into effect 30 days from Tuesday, but with the shelter still being built, enforcement will start out more lenient.
“I envision a 60- t0 maybe 90-day transition period, where we are going to be working with these residents, making sure they understand the regulations, what resources are out to them,” Snead said. “So, there is no snap or immediate reaction that they are not prepared for.”
The City of Madras says enforcing the new homeless ordinance will have to be a collaborative effort, including homeless advocates, non-profits, and law enforcement. Fines will be a last resort. Compliance is really the goal.
The homeless service center will provide seasonal shelters but be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for service providers to help those in need.