By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston
|Community Forum at Loucks Auditorium, Public Library, circa 2016|
Councilor Leung is reportedly the only councilor not presently supporting the proposed ordinance, which is virtually unchanged from the version that failed to pass in 2017, before she was on the Council. See "Sit-Lie, Sit-Lie Jr, Very Similar."
For our analysis of the failed 2017 ordinance, see "City Council to Consider Sit-Lie Bill" (20 September 2017).
The first forum will be at the Union Gospel Men's Mission, Wednesday evening, September 4, in the chapel. Tour at 5, followed by forum 5:30 to 7p. The first half-hour will be "information sharing", with an hour for questions/comments.
The second forum will be at Loucks Auditorium of the Salem Public Library, Friday, September 13, from noon to 1:30p, same format as the first forum.
There to respond to questions and comments will be representatives from the City’s Urban Development Department, Salem Housing Authority, Salem Police Department, and the City Attorney’s Office.
The City originally tried to promote Sit-Lie, Jr. as some kind of supportive service for people living on the streets of Salem, but providers were having none of it. See "City to Market Sit-Lie at Community Forum" and "City's Community Forum Plan Falters." As a result, the City must sit naked and alone on stage with Sit-Lie, Jr. Don't be surprised, however, if that first half-hour of "information sharing" isn't a litany of all that the City's done to support programs providing resources and services to people experiencing homeless, as if that has anything at all to do with Sit-Lie, Jr.
Sit-Lie, Jr., the City will say, is about balancing the rights of homeless people with the rights of downtown businesses, particularly businesses who've expanded their operations to public spaces like sidewalks. Stories will be told to illustrate that, whereas businesses have no problem trespassing "unwanted persons" from their premises, it's not so easy to eject them forcefully from a public space like a sidewalk. Accordingly, the City will claim, a law is needed.
Expect the City to claim that adopting Sit-Lie, Jr. will not cost anything. Chief Moore will offer reassurances that the majority of those targeted for enforcement will simply agree to move along, no problem. He will have no evidence to support his claim, however. The Chief also will say how compassionate he and his officers are and suggest that downtown business owners are just as deserving of compassion as people experiencing homelessness, as if threatening person A with force can be considered an act of compassion toward person B.
Asked where the people targeted with enforcement will go between 7a and 9p, the City will say (misleadingly) ARCHES, UGM and the Salvation Army (see the City's sit-lie FAQs). However, The ARCHES Project day shelter is open only 8:30a to 3p, M-F. UGM's day room is open only to men 6-8am and 9:15am to 8pm. HOAP day shelter is open only 9a to 2p M-F, (women only 9a to 11 Mon/Thurs). Lighthouse Shelter and Simonka Place are not open during the day (except inclement weather events).
So, men may hang out at UGM during the day, except between 8a and 9:15, unless they've been trespassed for some reason. They also can go to ARCHES and HOAP until mid-afternoon. Women have fewer choices. At 7a, there's UGM for breakfast. Mondays through Fridays, women can go to ARCHES at 8:30a, or to HOAP at 9a, but both close mid-afternoon. Thus, on weekends and on weekdays after 3p, women may eat an evening meal at UGM, but they have no other welcoming place to be. Don't expect the City to acknowledge such realities at this forum.
Also don't expect the City to acknowledge the claims of providers that the law will drive vulnerable people into residential areas and away from services or discuss in any detail the success or failure of sit-lie laws in other cities, including why Eugene and Portland have chosen not to go the sit-lie route, but to focus instead on strategies that have been shown to work, like developing a viable alternative to calling the police (see, e.g., Clark County, WA's "Business Toolkit").
Despite all the above, if the City is going to insist on moving forward with Sit-Lie, Jr. despite its lack of community support, the forums are a good idea. Evidence that sit-lie ordinances "work" would be better, but the City Council seems to prefer to base its decisions on opinions. So, go to the forums and share your opinions. Maybe the City Council will attend and listen.