From on May 7, 2008

After police shooed them from under the bridges, homeless people made their way to Portland City Hall in late April and have been camping outside in protest ever since.

They say the city hasn’t done enough for homeless people, and they want an end to the city’s law against camping on public property and sitting on sidewalks.

“Safe places to camp, for people who prefer that, should be made available,” said Wesley Flowers, a homeless protester.

But mayoral spokesman John Doussard says that ending the camping ban or sit-lie ordinance “is not on the table.”

City and nonprofit workers, meanwhile, were scrambling to find temporary shelter space.

A dozen beds opened this week at the Salvation Army Female Emergency Shelter. The Salvation Army and city were working to open 90 more for men and maybe some couples. But those beds would only be open through June.

Central Precinct Commander Mike Reese said police make “sweeps” under the bridges in the spring as winter shelters close and homeless camps swell, bringing more crime and threats to vulnerable campers.

Police work with social agencies and give several days notice before sweeps. Still, Reese said, officers found many campers in an April 29 sweep and had to tell them to get on a shelter waiting list or find an out-of-the-way camping spot.

Couples and people with dogs are barred from most shelters, and they want what protester Joseph van der Heiden calls “a safe zone” to camp outdoors.

Others want an indoor bed and care for health concerns including seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder and pregnancy.

Many want help getting long-term housing but need a place to sleep in the interim, said Marc Jolin, executive director of JOIN, a nonprofit that works to house the homeless.

Reese and Doussard said the city has no plans to sweep protesters from Fourth Avenue as long as they obey the laws.

Reese said police have had a couple of calls about protesters threatening other protesters, but few problems. The mayor’s office had just five phone calls about the protest by Tuesday and 10 e-mails, some from out of state, Doussard said.

A couple of dozen people lie against concrete balustrades and walls. They say they get few hostile comments, and most people ignore them.