Federal Injunction regarding Anti-Camping Ordinance
The City of Grants Pass is actively engaged in finding solutions for the unhoused, working with partnering agencies, and enforcing illegal activities in public spaces.
With this document, we want to take the opportunity to provide some information that explains the laws and parameters the city must operate under when managing resting in public spaces. This document is focused on the legal opportunities and restrictions we are facing when addressing homelessness in public spaces and is not necessarily a community-based response, which is better addressed by the multiple agencies associated with providing services to the unhoused.
How can cities manage their public spaces in a way that respects all community members, while still complying with federal and state law?
When it comes to regulating city public spaces, The City has three areas of the law we need to consider: federal law, state law, and local law – all three work together – and all three must work together to find solutions to the problems we are addressing.
Federal Law: Allows for people to rest in public spaces. Allows for people to take necessary minimal measures to keep warm and dry.
Robinson vs. State of California: California made it a crime to be “addicted to narcotics”, not just to possess or sell them. The court found that being “addicted to narcotics” is an illness, one that could occur voluntarily, involuntarily, and accidently. The fact that you could punish someone for something they could not control would be cruel and unusual punishment. The court did find you can punish behavior and actions, just not the status of a person.
Martin vs. Boise: 2018 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in response to a 2009 lawsuit by six homeless plaintiffs against the city of Boise, Idaho, regarding the city’s anti-camping ordinance. The ruling held that cities cannot enforce anti-camping ordinances if they do not have enough homeless shelter beds available for their homeless population. It did not necessarily mean a city cannot enforce any restrictions on camping in public spaces. There are four things that municipal attorneys feel confident in saying regarding Martin:
- Cities cannot criminally punish a person who is experiencing homelessness from sitting, sleeping, or lying on public property when that person has no place else to go.
- Cities are not required to build or provide shelters for persons experiencing homelessness.
- Cities can continue to impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions – even on people who are homeless, have a place to find shelter, and don’t wish to use that shelter.
- Limitation to city only – indicates regional cooperative not permitted. For Cities to get credit for services, they must be in the jurisdiction of the municipality.
Blake vs. Grants Pass (now known as Johnson v. Grants Pass): On September 28, 2022, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Johnson v. Grants Pass, a class action matter addressing public camping. The court upheld the U.S. District Court’s prior ruling that persons experiencing homelessness are entitled to take necessary minimal measures to keep themselves warm and dry while sleeping outside. The Ninth Circuit opined that cities violate the Eighth Amendment if they punish a person for the mere act of sleeping outside, or for sleeping in their vehicles at night when there is no other place in the city for them to go.
As a result of this ruling, this decision expands the application of Martin v. Boise —the pivotal case impacting cities’ ability to regulate public camping. The court noted that the decision in this case is narrow and that “it is ‘unconstitutional to [punish] simply sleeping somewhere in public if one has nowhere else to do so.’” It goes on to note that class actions in these types of cases are permissible. This opinion, in most respects, affirmed aspects of the prior rulings in Martin and Johnson. However, it failed to provide clarification on several issues, such as what constitutes “necessary minimal measures” to keep warm and dry. The City has requested rehearing at the Ninth Circuit Court, another step in the lawsuit process before it may be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
State Law: Requires 72-hour notice before a campsite/vehicle utilized for resting can be removed.
House Bill 3115: Any city or county law that regulates the acts of sitting, lying, sleeping or keeping warm and dry outside on public property must be “objectively reasonable” based on the totality of the circumstances as applied to all stakeholders, including persons experiencing homelessness.
- It requires a city to provide notice for campsite removal in public spaces.
- Requires 72-hour notice.
- It provides regulations for how a city oversees and manages the personal property it removes from an established campsite.
- If the item has value or utility, it must be stored by the city for at least 30 days so that the owner can try and reclaim the items.
Local Law: Identifies allowable time for people to rest in public spaces.
The city is in a lawsuit and operating under Magistrate Judge Clarke’s injunction. Judge Clarke’s ruling states the Grants Pass Municipal Code
(GPMC) 5.61.020, 5.61.030, and 6.46.090, violates the 8th Amendment of the Federal Constitution, as those Code provisions purportedly constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Based upon the Courts determinations, the injunction proscribes enforcement of the park exclusion and camping ordinances. The following is defined in the injunction.
- The city is enjoined from enforcing the prior version of GPMC 6.46.350 (the park exclusion ordinance);
- The city is enjoined from enforcing GPMC 5.61.030 and GPMC 6.46.090 (the camping ordinances) without first giving a person a warning of at least 24 hours before enforcement; (HB 3124 requires 72-hour notice before removal of property or the person could take place, but does not prevent a ticket from being issued after 24 hours)
- The City is enjoined from enforcing GPMC 5.61.030, GPMC 6.46.090 (the camping ordinances) and GPMC 5.57.020(A) (criminal trespassing on city property related to parks) from 9:00 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. during the months of April through September and from 7:00 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. during the months of October to March, in all City parks except for Reinhart Volunteer Park located at 1690 SW Webster Rd.
The injunction allows people to rest in the park, however, it does not allow people to break the law/do illegal activities such as littering and other infractions, or require that anyone be allowed to remain indefinitely in any place of their choosing. The City does regular patrols of the parks to help encourage proper park usage, which includes notices on campsites left up after the resting period, which then triggers the 72-hour state notice requirement.
Please continue to report any illegal activity to the Police Department. You can report illegal activity if it is an emergency by dialing 911. If it is a non-emergency, please call 541-450-6260. You can also report activity online at:
- Why is the City of Grants Pass under federal injunction to allow camping in parks?
- What is "State Created Danger?"
- Does the Injunction address illegal activities in parks?
- What can one do if they witness activity they suspect is illegal?
- How long may a camper stay after being told to move by law enforcement?
- What is Martin v. Boise?
We hope this has provided information regarding the City’s ability to provide Time, Place and Manner regulations regarding resting in public spaces. The injunction will continue to be in place until the Federal Courts have provided final ruling in the Johnson vs. Grants Pass.
Feel free to contact Police Chief Hensman or City Manager Cubic if you have any questions or concerns regarding our public services. 541-450-6000
For those wishing to read the specific documents related to resting in public, or to share opinions with those who sponsored various house bills, links are provided below.
Blake vs Grants Pass: Read the court ruling
HB 3115: Requires a city to provide 72-hour notice for campsite removal in public spaces. Sponsored by Representative KOTEK; Representatives DEXTER, MARSH, MCLAIN, POWER, REYNOLDS, WILDE, Senators DEMBROW, MANNING JR, RILEY
HB 3124: Provides that local law regulating sitting, lying, sleeping or keeping warm and dry outdoors on public property that is open to public must be objectively reasonable as to time, place and manner with regards to persons experiencing homelessness. Sponsored by Representative LIVELY; Representatives POWER, WILDE, Senator GORSEK
Representative John Lively, Democrat - District 7 – Springfield; 503-986-1407, Rep.JohnLively@oregonlegislature.gov
Senator Chris Gorsek, Democrat - District 25 – Gresham; 971-231-4466, Sen.ChrisGorsek@oregonlegislature.gov