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Portland mayor bans homeless encampments near highways over pedestrian deaths

By Jason Hanna and Andy Rose, CNN

The mayor of Oregon’s most populous city on Friday banned encampments near highways and high-traffic intersections, saying homeless people comprised the majority of pedestrians who were killed in Portland traffic incidents last year.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s emergency order enacting the ban is set to run at least until the evening of February 18.

The order bans camping of any kind in high-traffic areas. The order’s preamble and Wheeler himself, however, focused on homeless people living in tents and other structures.

“We can no longer justify allowing our most vulnerable community members to be exposed to the dangers of camping in freeway and high crash corridors,” Wheeler said in printed remarks released by his office Friday.

Wheeler cited a report from the city’s transportation bureau, which said 19 homeless pedestrians were killed in traffic incidents in Portland last year, accounting for 70% of the 27 total pedestrians killed in traffic situations, according to the report.

Multnomah County, where Portland is, says it counted 2,037 people who were homeless and not living in sanctioned shelters or transitional housing within the county on one night in January 2019.

Wheeler did not say how many people have been living in encampments near highways and high-traffic intersections in the city. The transportation bureau report did not say how many of the 19 homeless pedestrians who died last year were struck at or were living in such encampments.

A city team already charged with removing unsanctioned campsites will prioritize the removal of camps from high-traffic areas, Wheeler’s order reads.

The team will offer people in the camps information about shelter options, the order reads.

“We have continuously witnessed unsanctioned camping in clearly unsafe locations, sometimes jarringly close to reads and freeways. You don’t need to be a traffic engineer to sense that’s not safe,” Wheeler said.

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