Sunday, March 8, 2020

Has Councilor Flipped on Organized Camping?

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Councilor Nordyke explaining to Maggie Vespa/KGW that she voted for a designated camping area
Last week, in a fairly brutal story about the City's floundering efforts to enforce "sidewalk behavior" standards, KGW's Maggie Vespa asked Councilor Nordyke whether the city should allow camping in some areas.  Nordyke responded:

I think that's a great question for the council and the mayor. I know where I stand on the issues. I am one vote of nine. And my vote was to create a designated camping area that was safe, secure, clean, dry with access to bathrooms, and it did not take effect.

Presumably, Councilor Nordye was referring to her second of a motion by Councilor Andersen at the December 10 City Council meeting "to direct staff to move forward with all possible speed, using contingency funds, to develop a designated overnight twelve hour model temporary-staffed camping area at Wallace Marine Park, the term of the camp will be effective until May 15, 2020, with a City Council review at its first meeting in April 20."  See the minutes of that meeting here.

After discussion, Councilor Hoy offered a substitute motion "to provide expanded low-barrier shelter operations on a nightly basis" which passed 7-1, with Councilor Nanke voting against, and Councilor Ausec absent. 

Councilor Nordyke on January 27, 2020
But, six weeks later, at the Council's January 27 meeting, Councilor Nordyke told fellow councilors:

"I liked the idea of organized camping because I believed that it would provide a safe and secure and a clean place for people to go. But when we talked to folks who work with the homeless every day, I'm not hearing them telling us to support organized camping, which leaves us with the possibility of unorganized camping...So with the limited money that we have, I want to use it towards strategies that are proven to work, that are cost-effective, evidence-based, and no expert has stood up here and told me that organized camping is evidence-based.  We understand it to be managing homelessness and that there are significant drawbacks to that."

Monday night, City Council again will be looking at a costly organized camping proposal -- in CANDO -- that's intended to secure a crucial fifth vote to enact sit-lie.  See "Sit-Lie Could Cost City $30K to $75K a Month"  Has Nordyke changed her mind (yet again) on organized camping?  She did not respond to our request for comment.  Might she provide that fifth vote, even though she's also stated she thinks sit-lie is unconstitutional and could embroil the City in costly litigation?  See "Power to Punish: why Salem police don't need more discretion." Does she no longer care about cost-effective, evidence-based strategies, or what experts think?  Does she not care what CANDO thinks?  (CANDO opposes City-sponsored organized camping for the reasons set out in CANDO Resolution 2020-1.)  Tune in tomorrow night, and find out. 


  1. I have always understood CANDO to be a champion of the homeless so I am disappointed to find out you do not support a camping option. This is a reasonable request and should be an option regardless of whether or not shelter beds or hwrap are available. Besides, the number of beds available through these other options are inadequate. As SCOTUS has made plain it is a violation of federal law to impede travel and punish people for engaging in activities necessary to support life. However I do agree that the city should not pay for a campground. Such a campground should be fully self supporting. This is an important principle of both recovery and spiritual/personal maturity. Besides these neighbors are a human resource not a burden. This is an important shift in paradigm for leadership to make before a viable solution can be found that all stake holders will find to be something they can live with. Not necessarily something they will be happy about, that is what compromise is all about. Given access to Cascade Gateway park we could run a community garden, rent boats and any number of cottage industries to support the campground. Instead of granting money to such an operation the city could loan the money to the campers long enought to get it started. I have posted a rough outline on facebook in the homeless coalition group at .We need support from all stake holders for such a program to be accepted by city council. Please comment here and on facebood and write to me and the city council. Peace, Victor Reppeto my email address is v***reppeto*** . remove the *'s from my email address. I will also be notified of comments left here.

    1. "I have always understood CANDO to be a champion of the homeless so I am disappointed to find out you do not support a camping option...However I do agree that the city should not pay for a campground."

      Victor, thank you for reading and commenting. If you examine CANDO's resolution, you'll not that it specifically concerns City-sponsored camping, not camping generally. CANDO has not considered (and probably would not take a position on) privately sponsored camping programs. Best of luck with your endeavors.