Council decides to keep camping ban

Ashland will keep its ban on camping in public places despite objections from the American Civil Liberties Union that the ban is "cruel and unusual" and violates the Constitutional rights of the homeless.

The City Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a measure that retains the ban and establishes the sanctions for illegal camping, including fines of up to $500 or 48 hours of community service.

The city will give 24 hours' written notice in both English and Spanish, that a campsite is illegal, and will store any property seized for 60 days, an increase from the previous 14 days.

The council will vote again Nov. 4 on whether to finalize the measure.

The move came in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Southern California and the National Lawyers Guild in 2003 to fight a Los Angeles ban on homeless people sitting, lying and sleeping in public.

In a settlement, the city of Los Angeles agreed it would not enforce the ban between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. until it had built a substantial amount of housing for the homeless.

Ralph Temple of the Southern Oregon chapter of the ACLU asked Ashland City Council members to change the city's camping ban so it would not apply between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. The ban could go back into effect during those hours after the city had built 50 units of housing with support services for homeless people.

City Attorney Richard Appicello said he does not believe the city needs to lift its camping ban or build housing for the homeless because there is a homeless shelter in Medford. He said Los Angeles got into trouble because of insufficient shelter throughout the metropolitan area.

Ashland does not have an overnight homeless shelter, although it has emergency provisions to open a city building overnight to shelter people during extreme weather. The camping ban also can be suspended during emergencies.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yaho

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