Critics say Portland 'No-Sit Zone' unfairly punishes homeless
Outside the Columbia Sportswear flagship store in downtown Portland Saturday, signs instructing pedestrians to keep the sidewalk clear were instead covered with posters that read "Mayor For Sale."
The covered signs designate sidewalks for pedestrian use only under city code. A product of the city's Sidewalk Management Plan, the so-called "no-sit zone" prohibits people from blocking pedestrian traffic in busy downtown areas.
About 40 protestors sat anyway, opposing city policy they say criminalizes homelessness in favor of businesses like Columbia Sportswear. Cities across Oregon continue to grapple with the same question of whether such policies actually criminalize homelessness.
"When you criminalize things that only homeless people have to do, you're criminalizing homelessness," said Portland Resistance organizer Gregory McKelvey. "Human beings need to sit and to rest, and to simply say that homeless people should not be around here is not as a solution."
Mayor Ted Wheeler instructed the Portland Police Bureau and the city's transportation agency to expand the no-sit zone downtown, the Portland Mercury reported Wednesday.
On Twitter, Wheeler — seemingly responding to criticism of the action — said it was "irresponsible" to conflate homelessness with crime.
"We can address safety issues with common sense enforcement," Wheeler tweeted. "We can address homelessness with compassion. That's our plan."
Oregon Public Broadcasting is a new partner of the Portland Tribune. You can read the rest of their story at www.opb.org/news/article/portland-no-sit-zone-homeless-protest/.