Homeless Camp Removal Requirements

Mark Wolf

From our November 2016 e-newsletter

More and more communities throughout Oregon are faced with issues related to homelessness. One such issue is how to deal with illegal campsites on public property and the mess left behind when residents move on. At times, these campsites are abandoned and other times, cities or counties act to evacuate the camps. Either way, cities and counties are left to clean up the sites and remove property left behind or unclaimed. This article aims to help local governments understand their legal obligations, while providing some best practices when removing homeless campers and cleaning up homeless camps. While cities and counties primarily must address this issue, special districts should also be aware of these requirements as district employees regularly are called upon to assist in this process. Those entities could be named in a lawsuit along with the city or county.

Minimum Requirements Imposed by State Law

Many public officials are unaware that state law requires cities and counties to develop a policy that recognizes the social nature of the problem of homeless individuals camping on public property and to implement the policy so as to ensure the most humane treatment for removal of homeless individuals from camping sites on public property. ORS 203.077.

The policy developed and implemented must contain certain provisions including notice to the individual(s), notification of social service agencies, storing and making available unclaimed personal property, and a prohibition against issuing citations during certain time frames. ORS 203.079. Specifically, state law requires:

(a) Notice. Notice, written in English and Spanish, must be posted 24 hours prior to removing homeless individuals from an established camping site. However, notice is not required when illegal activities (other than camping) are occurring or for emergencies, such as site contamination by hazardous materials or danger to human life or safety. Consider laminating or otherwise weather-proofing the notice.

(b) Social Services. When posting notice, cities must notify local social service agencies. The local agency also has the right to arrange for outreach workers to visit the camp site to assess the need for social service assistance.

(c) Personal Property. All unclaimed personal property must be stored for 30 days prior to being disposed of and must be reasonably available to those claiming ownership. The statute defines “Personal Property” as any item that is reasonably recognizable as belonging to a person and that has apparent utility. Items with no apparent utility or that are in an unsanitary condition can be discarded immediately. Weapons, drug paraphernalia and items that appear to be stolen or evidence of a crime shall be turned over to law enforcement.

(d) Citations. State law prohibits citing homeless individuals for illegal camping at these locations within 200 feet of the notice and within two hours before or after the notice was posted.

Best Practices

While state law sets minimum requirements, some recent (unpublished) Oregon federal District Court cases help show us what to do, or at least what not to do, when implementing a policy on the removal of homeless campers and their property. Here are some points that I found helpful and interesting:

(a) Store the Personal Property in a Reasonable Place. In one case, a city’s argument that a dumpster was a “reasonable” storage facility, unsurprisingly, did not persuade the court. Cities should store personal property in clean, dry, and reasonably secure locations.

(b) Develop a System to Identify and Locate the Stored Personal Property. In another case, a homeless individual called the city (using the phone number provided on the notice) multiple times but was never directed to where his property was actually being stored. The court held against the city because even though the city stored the property for the required 30 days, the individual didn’t have any real opportunity to claim it. Remember, ORS 203.079 requires the property to be “reasonably available.” Often times, the person calling will not have a telephone – making it important for a city to be able to identify where the property is stored and relay that information to the caller on the first call.

(c) Document City/County Action. Maintaining detailed records of any city action will help any city faced with a claim. Consider having a policy in place detailing: (1) when the city posted notice; (2) the location of the property when it was removed; (3) what property was removed; (4) what property was retained, where it was stored, and for how long; and (5) what was thrown away (and why). Taking pictures of what property was stored and what was disposed of may be an effective way of documenting city action.

Regardless of how detailed and specific your policies are, the key takeaway is that state law requires all cities and counties to develop and implement a policy for the removal of homeless individuals and their property and sets minimum requirements. Remember, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, so don’t be too quick to throw out something that may have value to someone else. The Local Government Law Group is here to help answer any questions or draft a policy that fits the needs of your community.

CIS Requires Pre-Loss Consultation Prior to Placing an Employee on Paid Administrative Leave

Lauren Sommers

From our November 2016 e-newsletter

As of July 1, 2016, cities and counties that are insured by Citycounty Insurance Services (CIS) must consult with a CIS Pre-Loss attorney before placing an employee on paid administrative leave if the city or county wants to avoid payment of a deductible. There are certain exceptions to this new pre-loss requirement for paid administrative leave mandated by law or required by a collective bargaining agreement.

If you have questions about this requirement please feel free to contact us or CIS Pre-Loss at:

Phone: 503.763.3848

Toll Free: 800.922.2684 ext. 7

Email: PreLoss@cisoregon.org

New FLSA Exemption Requirements

Christy Monson

From our November 2016 e-newsletter

As you know, your (non-firefighting and non-public safety) regular employees generally must be paid overtime or earn comp time if they work over 40 hours in a workweek–unless they qualify as “exempt” from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime requirements. Recently, the Department of Labor made some very big changes to the rules regarding which employees qualify as exempt. This means you, as an employer, should review the way in which you categorize FLSA-exempt employees.

Specifically, starting on December 1, only salaried employees who make at least $913 per week (or $47,476 Per Year) may be considered exempt. Now, to be classified as a salaried exempt employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the employee must:

a)     meet the tests for executive, administrative, or professional employees;
b)     be paid on a salary basis; and
c)     starting December 1, 2016, be paid at least $913 per week or $47,476 annually.

What does this mean for you as an employer? Your choices if you have an employee who meets these criteria are:

●     You could increase their salary to at least $47,476 to preserve their exempt status;
●     You could reclassify them as non-exempt and pay them any overtime or credit them with comp time;
●     You could reclassify them as non-exempt and limit their work hours to under 40 per week.

The DOL made other changes to their exempt-status rule regarding how much someone must earn to qualify as “highly compensated” and how to calculate the effect of non-discretionary bonuses on someone’s exempt status. For more information on these recent changes, see:


Written Notice Now Required Before Disciplinary or Performance Review Executive Sessions

Christy Monson

From our November 2016 e-newsletter

The Oregon Ethics Commission has adopted a new rule which changes the law regarding certain executive sessions. Specifically, the Commission decided that in order to call an executive session under ORS 192.660(2)(b) or (i) (which allows a government to go into an executive session to discuss the discipline or performance evaluations of public officers or employees), the public body must:

  • provide written notice of the meeting to the employee or public official at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting;
  • cite the executive session statute in the notice;
  • state in the notice whether the governing body will be considering “the dismissal or disciplining of, hearing complaints or charges against, or reviewing and evaluating the performance of the public official receiving the notice”; and
  • state in the notice that the employee or public official may request an open hearing.

In the past, the law required that governing bodies provide notice, but it did not specify exactly what the notice should say, when it should be given, or that it must be in writing.