Salem Camping Rules Explained


Check the City's COVID-19 information center for changes affecting this program.


The new rule applies city-wide, not just downtown.  The ordinance restricts camping all day and all night on public property. Camping means establishing or maintaining a "campsite" as a temporary place to live. "Campsite" means a tent, or structure consisting of a top or roof any other upper covering, and enclosed on one or more sides, that is of sufficient size for a person to fit underneath or inside.

The rule does not prohibit someone from keeping their personal belongings on public property, if the belongings are attended. Unattended personal property left on the sidewalk for more than two hours is a violation of the rule and is subject to being removed by the City and held for retrieval by the owner.

A person may protect themselves or their belongings against the elements by utilizing a tarp or other covering, if the person does not establish or maintain a campsite.

In 2018, a task force looked at specific impacts of homelessness in downtown Salem including perceptions of safety, trash, health and hygiene.  Work is underway to provide toilet facilities 24/7, safe and secure storage for personal belongings, and shower facilities in the downtown area.  These impacts, however, are being seen throughout our community along our streets, sidewalks, and public spaces.

With facilities in place and Salem's efforts to increase access to affordable housing in our community, the new rule aims to ensure all of Salem remains welcoming to all visitors.

What does the proposed City of Salem Sidewalks and Public Space Ordinance restrict?

  • Camping on public property all day or night.

  • Leaving personal property unattended on the sidewalk all day or night for more than  2 hours.

What is the purpose of the proposed Sidewalks and Public Space Ordinance?

  • Keeping sidewalks and public spaces clean helps the overall appearance and vitality of city, particularly in commercial areas.  Business owners, their employees, and their patrons may also feel more safe using the sidewalks in all areas of the city.

  • With the ordinance in place, Salem Police can make contact with those in need and help direct them to the appropriate shelters or service. It also gives Salem Police a tool to use when unsightly and unsanitary temporary structures are being used on the sidewalks, or when individuals establish a presence or camp in front of a business that detracts from or deters visitors to the business through their behavior, trash, or waste.

Does the proposed Sidewalks and Public Spaces Ordinance apply to everyone?

  • Yes.  All laws must be applied and enforced uniformly.

If homeless individuals can't camp on the sidewalks or in public spaces, where will they go?

  • Over the past several years, due to the City Council's priority of addressing our community's homeless, a variety of options are available for food, shelter, storage, and other personal needs. 

  • Available services include ARCHES, Union Gospel Mission, Salvation Army,  or churches or social service agencies. These organizations are supported by volunteers, grants and donations.

  • Individuals may remain on the sidewalk, and may even use blankets, sleeping bags, and tarps to protect themselves against the elements – without establishing a campsite.

Will offenders be jailed?

  • Offenders will not be jailed for simply being in violation of the conduct regulated by the ordinance.

What about Boise?

  • This new rule deals with camping on public property, and does not restrict anyone's ability to be in public places.  This ordinance was written based on the 9th Circuit's decision in Martin v. City of Boise and complies with the Court's decision in that case.

  • See the Idaho news article for more information.

How you can help

Our community's support is critical to helping the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. Please donate to non-profit organizations, provide space for services, serve on volunteer boards, volunteer, invest in affordable housing, or rent an apartment to an at-risk tenant. Your help is vital and greatly appreciated.  To help those in need, please reconsider how you give

Contact us

8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
555 Liberty ST SE RM 220
Salem OR 97301
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