Ban On Houseless Sleeping on River Banks

Ban On Houseless Sleeping on River Banks

The Department of State Lands wants to stop homeless people from camping on a public-owned beach along the Willamette River.  Zidell a large barge builder’s plan to revamp 3,000 feet of shoreline and cap contaminated river sediments are being obstructed by houseless habitating along the banks according to their reports to Dept. of State Lands.

Zidell was ordered as one of the responsible parties that polluted the Superfund site, to do restorations to the Willamette river. A large portion of their cleanup efforts includes a sediment capping of small rocks covering the floor and banks near their facilities. This cap in theory will allow fish to have cleaner areas to breed and develop. Damage to this cap will undo millions of dollars in restoration to the Superfund and further delay the potential for industrial profits.

The Department of State Lands site threats to the Willamette from houseless persons as the reason for the proposed camping ban in this section of the river. They are stating that the restoration by Zidell is being hindered by their presence. That the shoreline, the plants and shrubs Zidell has planted are being destroyed. The fear is that the sediment cap will not hold if the plants are not kept intact.

Some of Zidell’s work includes the dismantling and salvaging transformers full of toxic PCBs and burning PCB-laden wire insulation of underlying copper. Workers buried debris in open pits and shored up the riverbank with scrap metal, asbestos and other debris throughout the 1960’s to 1980’s adding to the contamination of the Superfund site. Many of the docks and buildings have been burned out causing more harm to the river and its inhabitants.

The proposed ban would apply to overnight camping and still allow people to visit the banks during the day according to the Department of State Lands. However, with our unhoused neighbors being forced to constantly migrate from one area to another, the question remains: where do they go? The natural areas for the most part are out of sight of neighborhoods, access roads, business easements. The houseless do not want to harm the environment but what options are they being given?

Here is a novel concept; Make them stewards of the natural areas. Put unhoused neighbors to work with paid employment. Help them develop skills that can carry into environments, forestry, parks, education, construction jobs. Most of us didn’t have our housing or jobs handed to us, we worked for what we hold on to. Isn’t it time to help our unhoused neighbors have ability and skills to have a little something to hold on to as well. More of our housed neighbors were not able to hold on to their housing. Tomorrow those we call friends, coworkers and neighbors will be the unhoused being pushed to the natural areas and the river’s banks. Companies like Zidell and the Department of State Lands could run with this idea, being the start for these programs putting most impacted communities to work for a brighter future.

By Lisa Fay: Chair - Right 2 Survive, Inc