From Amy Ruiz, the Portland Mercury, May 8. 2008

As expected, Sisters of the Road resigned from the mayor’s Street Access For Everyone oversight committee this morning, vowing instead to devote its time to advocating for the repeal of the city’s sit/lie and anti-camping laws.

“The SAFE Resolution effectively criminalized people who are experiencing homelessness and have nowhere to rest during the day,” said Sisters’ associate director Michael Buonocore, at a press conference held on the steps of City Hall.

BUONOCORE: “It is effectively illegal to be homeless in Portland…”

Buonocore said: “We were assured that the enforcement of the SAFE resolution would not target homeless individuals. It has been shown to do exactly that.”

“The services associated with SAFE, including day access center space, public restrooms and benches, have been inadequately implemented,” he continued. “These needed services should be fully funded and should be associated with the 10-year plan to end homelessness, not a law that violates the civil rights of Portlanders.”

Sisters’ civic action group, coordinated by Patrick Nolen (pictured above, left) will now work on an advocacy campaign, encouraging people to contact their elected officials demanding the repeal of the controversial laws. Others on the committee were clearly frustrated this morning, especially over the fact that enforcement has been disparate, and accompanying services like benches, restrooms, and showers, have not been working out as well as planned. Showers at the Julia West House on SW13th, for example, were out of commission for months, now they’re luke-warm at best, to the consternation of the house’s manager, Marvin Mitchell, who has been trying to get them fixed.

“In our executive summary for the mayor, we emphasized that the consensus around this strategy would not endure unless all five parts of our strategy were implemented together,” said Marc Jolin, executive director of JOIN Buonocore. “And clearly, minimally, if we’re not going to talk about the fact that the sit/lie ordinance should be repealed, we need to at least acknowledge the fact that all five strategies are not being implemented equally and that there’s a threat to the enduring consensus of this group.”

Also at the meeting this morning, city attorney David Woboril admitted that the sit/lie ordinance appears “on its face” to apply to street signs left outside small businesses. At last month’s meeting it emerged the city hasn’t been prosecuting sign-owners because it didn’t want to harm small businesses. However, Worboril said in Portland, the police have always been required to enforce laws against humans, and PDOT has been required to enforce laws relating to signs and sidewalk restaurants. PDOT, it appears, is not doing its part.

“To me the major issues when we came together for this process were sidewalk cafes downtown and diminished access to these for people in wheelchairs,” said Andrea Meyer of the ACLU. “I’m really disappointed that the city isn’t going after those. I’m really frustrated that PDOT has not been called to act on this.”

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