Portland homeless can camp in cars in church lots

PORTLAND — Homeless people in Portland will be allowed to camp in their cars in the parking lots of religious and nonprofit organizations under a test program approved Wednesday by the City Council.

The council voted for a one-year test of the idea, which is much like a car camping program in Eugene, The Oregonian reported.

Organizations could allow up to four cars, RVs or trailers, but not tents, provided they also follow several other rules.

Those include: displaying signs that tell neighbors they gave permission to the campers to sleep overnight; ensuring access to toilets and garbage pickup; and disallowing hookups to electricity, water and sewer service.

Portland Commissioner Nick Fish spearheaded the idea after getting a cool reception to it two years ago.

"I had a hard time getting any traction," he said. "The response was 'not now.'"

Occupy Portland and a highly visible new homeless camp in the city's Old Town district along with an 8 percent uptick in homelessness in Multnomah County this year created what Fish called a fresh "sense of crisis."

He got support from Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, a faith-based nonprofit in Portland.

Fish and two other members of the council approved the test program. Two others, including Mayor Sam Adams, were absent.

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