A homeless woman walks in front of a city of Salem public works vehicle during an eviction of a camp under the Marion Street Bridge in January. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter)

Stuck with few immediate solutions to homelessness, Salem city councilors on Monday night will consider again repealing portions of the citywide camping ban.

Councilors in January posed the idea of modifying the ban, passed in December.

On Jan. 27, councilor Tom Andersen asked city staff to explore changing the ban to apply only to downtown, city parks and residential areas.

Andersen told Salem Reporter he didn’t know if the modification was a good idea, but he wanted to have councilors discuss it.

“I’m not saying I’m going to support or not,” Andersen said.

He said he’s spoken to three councilors about the issue, and they all have mixed opinions.

Anderson floated the idea at the Jan. 27 city council meeting after councilors heard a low-barrier shelter wouldn’t come to fruition this winter, citing two properties that either had safety concerns or a lengthy permitting process.

A new staff report on the camping ban said predicting the consequences of modifying the ban was difficult, and said it was possible camps would proliferate around Edgewater and Wallace Roads near the pedestrian bridge and the commercial and industrial areas north of Hood Street.

The report, authored by City Manager Steve Powers, said relaxing the ban would create enforcement challenges in determining which properties are subject to camping restrictions.

“Additional costs and delayed enforcement will result from not having distinct and easily identifiable boundaries. This challenge will also apply to people who wish to camp and will not know the areas the camping restrictions apply,” the report said.

It also noted that a camping change wouldn’t prevent people from living on downtown sidewalks.

For a change to go into effect, the council would need to pass an ordinance modifying city code so the restrictions would only apply to downtown, city parks and residentially zoned areas. If the proposal is approved, the ordinance would be considered at the Feb. 24 meeting. 

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