- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Portland’s decades-long homeless problem has been glaringly obvious since February when a new city “experiment” gave drifters and transients the freedom to spill onto public sidewalks and rights of way as they please - and some businesses and neighborhoods have decided they’ve had enough.

The so-called Safe & Livable Portland coalition slapped the city and Mayor Charlie Hales with a lawsuit on Wednesday, demanding an immediate stop to the six-month experiment the suit describes as an “abuse of power” and “authoritarian act” that’s leading to crime, public safety risks and overall inhumane conditions.

The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, stems from Hales’ temporary “safe sleep policy” allowing the homeless to camp and sleep in some public areas overnight, which he enacted after the city declared a housing state of emergency in October.

The coalition - spearheaded by the Building Owners and Managers Association of Oregon and including five others such as the Portland Business Alliance - claims in its lawsuit that the homeless experiment violates several city and state laws. Specifically, they argue the policy should’ve gone to vote by city council and derived input from the public.

“When it comes down to it, it’s illegal because it’s not the mayor’s job to make laws,” said Susan Steward, executive director of the Building Owners and Managers Association. “Usually there’s some sort of public process. This time it didn’t even go to council.”

Steward further echoed the lawsuit’s claims that the policy violates a state law that limits the number of homeless camps within certain city boundaries.

Sara Hottman, a spokeswoman for Hales, said the mayor was in Europe and therefore unavailable for comment.

“Plus we have not yet received the lawsuit, so don’t yet know its allegations,” Hottman said Wednesday afternoon. “And the city’s policy is to not comment on pending litigation.”

Steward said the coalition’s members did not try to reach out and express its concerns with the city before filing the complaint, but they would back off if its demands are met.

“Because honestly there was no point. Once it was done, it was done,” Steward said. “If (Hales) says we won’t do it anymore, we’ll drop it.”


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