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New regional homeless camping restrictions in Oregon took effect July 1

A large, grassy area, about 100 feet across. There are small trees around the border of the grassy area. A low-lying building with a shallow-angle roof is in the background, to the right is a barbed wire fence.
Roman Battaglia
Jefferson Public Radio
The small field behind the police station and city council chambers in Ashland has been designated as the overnight sleeping site.

House Bill 3115, which was passed in 2021, governs where homeless people in Oregon are allowed to camp. The deadline for those rules to take effect was Saturday.

The law establishes that cities and counties that choose to regulate where people can camp in public spaces must create “objectively reasonable” restrictions about where, when and how that camping can occur.

In recent months, communities across Oregon have rolled out their own restrictions on public camping, based on certain locations and hours.

In May, Ashland established a ban on all camping in public places. The only place it's allowed is at a city-owned campground, which is open from 7 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. People who do not comply with the rules will receive citations. Guests need to follow a list of rules, including those related to space allowances and managing pets. Campers are not allowed to have visitors or weapons, and cooking, campfires, illicit or recreational drugs and alcohol are prohibited.

In Roseburg, rules took effect on July 1 that camping is prohibited on any city property during daylight hours. There are also restrictions near residential areas, schools, city-owned buildings and other locations. Camping is allowed during evening hours, which vary depending on the month.

“We are trying to balance people’s human need to sleep and stay warm and dry with the public’s expectations to use public spaces as intended,” Roseburg City Manager Nikki Messenger said in a press release from the city.

However, some of the new regional restrictions in Roseburg have received criticism from local homeless advocates for being vague or confusing because they don't make it clear where people are allowed to camp.

"We do have questions about like, what are the available camp spots where people can be from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.? Not quite sure," said Philip Suarez, a missionary with the Ministry Servants of Christ, which works with the homeless population.

Suarez said local homeless advocates as well as those in the homeless population are "dumbfounded" and "flabbergasted" by the new regulations because the law's logistics make life "inconceivable."

"There's no place in all of Roseburg to legally be homeless at all. The only options we have right now are high barrier shelters, and there's no other option," he said.

In recent months, the City of Roseburg has been working on establishing an urban campground.

The Ministry opposed the new regulations because, Suarez wrote in an email to the town, "We recommend that a low-barrier or multiple low barrier campgrounds be created before making any changes to camping ordinances here in Roseburg."

Both Ashland and Roseburg also have restrictions on the size of a camp.

Other restrictions have been approved throughout Oregon, including in Medford.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.