After COVID-19 worsened the nation's homelessness problem, liberal cities like Portland, Or., are enacting permanent bans of many encampments, reports the Associated Press. Portland, Washington, D.C. and others used emergency declarations to criminalize sleeping outside in certain areas with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler calling it "the most important issue facing our community, bar none." Liberal lawmakers face increasing pressure from frustrated residents and risk losing re-election campaigns to "tough on crime" Republican counterparts. In California, home to over 160,000 homeless people, city councils banned camping in 54 locations and Los Angeles mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino outlined plans to ban the homeless from sleeping outdoors if they turned down offers of shelter.
Advocates for the homeless have fought the sweeping new measures. In D.C., they occupied a homeless encampment at risk of being moved for two weeks during a stand-off with officials. Activists criticize the new measures, calling for homelessness to be treated as a humanitarian crisis rather than a crime. And some who deal with the homeless population first hand are calling for solutions that address the root causes of the problem. “I don’t blame the campers. There are a few other options for housing. There’s a plague of meth and opiates and a world that offers them no hope and little assistance,” said James Darwin “Dar” Crammond of the Oregon Water Science Center. “In my view, where the blame squarely lies is with the City of Portland.”