Newport City Council ponders whether to allow “car camping” for local homeless families at select locations around town
Newport City Councilors were asked by Lincoln County Commissioner Bill Hall and other homeless advocates to consider allowing family-only car camping for those who are homeless. Samaritan House Manager Lola Jones said they would like Newport to be the first city in Lincoln County that allows specific property owners to host limited car camping; strictly overnight and with very clear rules. Jones said a similar program exists in Eugene and has been working quite well giving distressed families who live in their cars or vans a secure place to park and to sleep. Eligible families would have to be local, not transients moving through.
Jones said the ideal situation would be for three or four local churches to step forward and allow up to four families a night to camp in their parking lots. The families would be required to have placards in their windows certifying they’ve been screened and approved by the program and that the families clearly understand the rules for being given a place to park for the night. Porta potties would be provided but at who’s expense has not been determined. Jones said she hopes that a grant request to the Siletz Tribe Charitable Foundation might be successful.
City Councilor David Allen raised the issue of liability coverage. A similar program that has been in place with the city of Eugene has found that liability issues are not a show-stopper. They say cities, churches and non-profits already have liability insurance and that in the in the 15 years they’ve run their program they’ve had one liability issue arise and it was settled for $5,000 (a half-wolf dog killed a champion Pomeranian down the street). Since then, the rules require that any family requesting car/r-v camping NOT have a dog. No exceptions. They say dogs are often a cause for discourse and friction between families and not all families “pick up” after their dog. So, families with dogs must have a place to put them up for the time they’re camped overnight in a church, private or public parking lot. Public parking lots are used in the program; specific ones as set out in city ordinance.
With ideas put forth by Bill Hall and Lola Jones, including homeless advocates Elise Jordan and Jim Myers (Newport Food Pantry), city officials said they’re willing to explore the possibilities of having a homeless family car/r-v camping program launched within the city, preferably with cooperation with local churches.