City considers homeless exclusion zoneA downtown exclusion zone is being considered in Ashland, Oregon, as an alternative to the growing list of citations and thousands of dollars in unpaid fines accumulated by the city’s homeless population.
The police are frustrated that repeat citations for nuisance violations like urinating in public and sleeping on private property are ignored by the homeless.
Police Chief Terry Holderness said some homeless people who do find jobs must pay off thousands of dollars in fines from their paychecks before they collect any money, possibly contributing to long-term homelessness. "We’re creating an impediment to people changing their lives,” he said.
An exclusion zone would ban people with multiple violations from downtown, and allow police to arrest them for criminal trespassing if they return. The zones are already in effect in parts of Portland, Eugene and McMinnville.
“If we catch you downtown, the first time you’ll be taken to Medford and probably released,” Holderness said. “The second time, you might spend two days in jail. The next time, it could be a week or two in jail. There would very clearly be a negative consequence for repeat offenders.”
People who are arrested for criminal trespassing can be jailed for up to six months and fined $2,000, although that would probably happen only to a repeat offender, Holderness said.
The newspaper spoke with at least three men who said they were homeless and living in Ashland, but the men refused to give their names. They said the city’s downtown belongs to the public, and creating an exclusion zone would be unfair.
Read the Bend Bulletin report here.