Later this summer, Salem's City Council will consider additional options to address the impacts of homelessness in Salem. Homelessness in Salem is a complex problem that requires long-term, committed partnerships with public and non-profit agencies and organizations across our community. Together with community leaders, business and property owners, service providers, residents, and advocates for the homeless, the City is working to reduce homelessness and develop proactive solutions to the complex problems that lead to homelessness in our community.
Salem's City Council will consider a new rule to address the impacts of behaviors in the public right of way citywide, including sidewalks and parking strips, by restricting sleeping on the sidewalk throughout Salem between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., when parks, service provider dayrooms, and other spaces and resources are available. The new rule aims to ensure all of Salem remains welcoming to all visitors by keeping sidewalks and public spaces clean, and provides another reason to make contact with those in need and help direct them to the appropriate shelters or service.
With more services in place like toilet facilities, safe and secure storage for personal belongings, and shower facilities in the downtown area, and increasing access to affordable housing throughout our community, the proposed Sidewalks and Public Spaces Ordinance aims to ensure all of Salem remains welcoming to all visitors by keeping sidewalks and public spaces clean. Learn more about the proposed Sidewalks and Public Space Ordinance here.
The proposed ordinance will apply city-wide, not just downtown. The ordinance would restrict erecting structures such as tents or tarps in the right of way all day and all night. If enacted, the ordinance allows for medical emergencies, seating for persons with physical disabilities, strollers, sidewalk cafes, attending a parade or other special event, sitting in a chair or bench, waiting for the bus, or other City-permitted activity.
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 and sidewalks.
With facilities in place and Salem's efforts to increase access to affordable housing in our community, the proposed Sidewalks and Public Space Ordinance aims to ensure all of Salem remains welcoming to all visitors.
1. What does the proposed City of Salem Sidewalks and Public Space Ordinance restrict?
- Sleeping or laying on the sidewalk during the day, from the hours of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Erecting “campsites” on the sidewalk all day or all night.
- Leaving personal property unattended on the sidewalk all day or night for more than 24 hours.
2. 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.
3. Are there exceptions or times where sidewalks and public spaces could be used to set up temporary seating?
- If enacted, the ordinance allows for medical emergencies, seating for persons with physical disabilities, strollers, sidewalk cafes, attending a parade or other special event, sitting in a chair or bench, waiting for the bus, or other City-permitted activity.
4. Does the proposed Sidewalks and Public Spaces Ordinance cover the entire city or just downtown?
- If approved, the proposed ordinance would apply to the entire city.
5. Does the proposed Sidewalks and Public Spaces Ordinance apply to everyone?
- Yes. All laws must be applied and enforced uniformly.
6. If homeless individuals can't sit on the sidewalk during the prohibited hours, 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, parks and city benches, or churches or social service agencies who allow such activity.
7. Can offenders be jailed?
- Not for simply being in violation of the conduct regulated by the ordinance.
- Repeat violations can lead to an exclusion order. Violation of an exclusion order can lead to a citation for trespass, which carries criminal sanction and possibly jail.
8. What about Boise?
- This ordinance was written based on the 9th Circuit's decision in Martin v. City of Boise and complies with the outcome of that case.
- See the Idaho news article for more information.
9. What about the City of Portland case?
- The City of Portland enacted a similar ordinance several years ago, that an Oregon circuit court judge invalidated because it was found in conflict with an Oregon criminal law for pedestrian interference.
- The proposed Sidewalks and Public Spaces Ordinance avoids this issue by: 1) not imposing criminal sanctions (no jail) and 2) specifically addressing appearance and enhancement of community vitality. This ordinance is not directed at preserving physical pedestrian access or public safety.
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.