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Lawsuits & Litigation

Lawsuit: Portland Homeless Encampments Violate Americans with Disabilities Act

— September 7, 2022

The lawsuit claims that sidewalk-obstructing homeless encampments violate disabled Portlanders’ rights.

A group of Oregon residents have filed a federal class action lawsuit alleging that Portland has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by allowing homeless people to camp on city sidewalks.

According to The Willamette Week, the lawsuit was filed earlier this week on behalf of 10 disabled Portland residents.

The plaintiffs, adds the Week, are represented by attorneys from Davis Wright Tremaine. Collectively, they assert that Portland has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act—often abbreviated as the A.D.A.—by failing to keep sidewalks safe and accessible.

Keith Martin, a 71-year-old litigant, says that Portland’s homeless problem makes it difficult to travel to every-day places like the post office and train station.

“What I haven’t heard from the government is, ‘We’re sorry. We’re sorry we haven’t done a better job taking care of you,’” Martin told KOIN-6. “Everyone points fingers and explains why they can’t do things.”

Philip Rhodes, an 81-year-old Navy veteran who uses an electric scooter to travel throughout Portland, said that his efforts to use obstructed city sidewalks have prompted altercations with the homeless.

The lawsuit asserts that, not only do homeless encampments impede disabled Portlanders’ mobility, but they make simply transiting the city dangerous.

Several tents packed closely together under an overhanging concrete structure.
Homeless camp under an I-580 overpass in California. Photo by Grendelkhan, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0, image has been cropped.

“One such person tried to push him into traffic,” the lawsuit states.” And, on two separate occasions, unsheltered persons have stood in the sidewalk and prevented Mr. Rhodes from passing, requiring him to turn around and take another route.”

“The City has failed and continues to fail to maintain its sidewalks clear of debris and tent encampments, which is necessary to make its sidewalks readily accessible to people with mobility disabilities,” the lawsuit states. “Indeed, a substantial number of the City’s sidewalks—particularly those in the City’s busiest business corridors—do not comply with applicable federal statutes and regulations because they are blocked by tent encampments and attendant debris, rendering the sidewalks inaccessible, dangerous, and unsanitary for people with mobility disabilities.”

The lawsuit asks that the court order Portland to clear all sidewalks of tents, and to provide shelter to any homeless persons who might be displaced.

“To the extent the City may be unable to clear the City’s sidewalks of tent encampments due to the constraints imposed by Martin v. City of Boise, [Plaintiffs seek] an order requiring the City to construct, purchase, or otherwise provide for emergency shelters in which to house the unsheltered persons affected by the Court’s judgment,” the lawsuit says.


Federal Lawsuit Alleges City of Portland Fails to Uphold Americans With Disabilities Act by Allowing Tents on Sidewalks

Portlanders with disabilities sue city, say tents on sidewalk violate ADA

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