OR Housing Now attacks homeless civil rights violations: Currie

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 8 May 1998 13:49:46 -0700 (PDT)

=46WD  The Oregonian  05-04-98

     The issues and rights of the homeless are dropping out of the
     general public's consciousness, an advocate contends

     By Wade Nkrumah of The Oregonian staff

Many public perceptions of homelessness bother Chuck Currie, co-chairman of
Oregon Housing Now Coalition.

In the course of more than a decade as an advocate for the homeless, Currie
said, he has noticed a gradual passive acceptance of the condition of
homelessness. But, he said, many people are less accepting of homeless
people being part of the larger community.

That's why Currie is taking a lead role in helping the coalition launch a
statewide civil rights organizing project, part of a national campaign to
raise awareness of civil rights violations that advocates say homeless
people suffer daily.

The statewide campaign begins today when Currie speaks at Pacific
University in Forest Grove. He will speak at 7 p.m. at Taylor Auditorium in
Marsh Hall, 2043 College Way=F5cq..

"It's important that the rest of the state get involved in the campaign for
civil rights and homelessness," he said. "We can't just assume it's an
urban Portland issue."

He said the project would involve:

*Educating the public about homelessness issues including civil rights and
interactions with business groups and police.

*Organizing people who are homeless, to defend their rights.

*Increasing the involvement of civil rights advocates and shelters,
encouraging more involvement of churches and social service agencies, and
networking with local, state and national organizations.

*Documenting police actions on video.

"If the project is successful," Currie said, "there will be increased
public good will toward homeless people that will make it difficult, if not
impossible, for local communities to violate the civil rights of homeless

Currie cites the city's anti-camping ordinance as among the most blatant
examples of civil rights violations, even though the ordinance has survived
a legal challenge by advocates and Multnomah County Legal Aid Service.

The ordinance, approved in 1981, prohibits people from establishing camps
or other outdoor areas where they sleep and set up residence with their
belongings. Police are allowed to evict people from such areas and
confiscate their belongings. Notice of a camp sweep must be posted at the
site 24 hours in advance.

Enforcement is contingent on the city having emergency shelter space, which
is provided as part of the Portland/Multnomah County Shelter
Reconfiguration Plan, a system of four shelters for single men and women
and chronically mentally ill adults.

Currie and other homeless advocates argue that the ordinance and the sweeps
it sanctions are dehumanizing, at the very least.

"There has been a feeling in the general public that that's okay," Currie sa=


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