June 8, 2023 

Outside In Opposes Mayor Wheeler’s Inhumane Camping Ban 

Being unhoused is not a crime. We believe that every human being – regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or income deserves access to basic healthcare, housing, and education; every human being deserves access to the tools that allow them to thrive.   

Outside In has been on the forefront of client centered care for 55 years. We have changed and improved lives by offering health and supportive services to people experiencing houselessness and living in poverty. Harm reduction lives at the heart of every service we offer.   

In the fall of 2022, we stood in staunch opposition to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s proposed ordinance which would make being houseless illegal. Since the introduction of this measure, the mayor and city council have heard from countless organizations, activists, and unhoused individuals expressing their disapproval of this approach. The Oregonian cited that throughout the five-hour hearing over the ordinance, over 100 people testified – the majority of whom opposed the proposed legislation, which we and others characterize as inhumane. Despite this feedback, they have aggressively pursued this path without concern for the harm it will cause.  

The passage of this measure marks yet another example of Portland further marginalizing the most excluded, in its effort to improve the city’s image. City leadership has revealed their true priorities; they are not concerned about the health and wellness of its citizens, but rather profit and order in the name of “revitalization.”  

This measure is thinly veiled state sanctioned violence. These unreasonable restrictions will force unhoused citizens to carry their entire lives around for 12 hours a day – or face police harassment, fines, and jail time. The mayor claims that this is a “step in the right direction” in conjunction with increased access to shelter beds. These empty words stand in contrast to the actions of his administration. Just last month, Willamette Week revealed that The Joint Office of Homeless Services is continuing to dramatically underspend its funds. In fact, it has spent less than half of its approved budget for this fiscal year. The need for shelter beds is dramatically higher than those available, and the proposed city-regulated camping sites are nowhere near completion. This decision will not reduce the barriers of the houseless community but rather amplify them by creating criminal histories, debt, and loss of autonomy.  

We believe that individuals living in tent camps are the most vulnerable people in our community and it is critical they have access to services that are low barrier, trauma informed, person-centered, and harm reduction based. Outside In remains committed to calling out oppression and to serving those living on the fringe.   

“Our community members deserve and are entitled to dignity and care in how they are treated and valued, with or without a place to be sheltered or live.” Outside In’s Executive Director, Kiku Johnson, shares in response to the news. “Our values at Outside In are exactly: Compassion for our clients, our coworkers, and ourselves; Courage to do this work, mirroring the strength of our clients; Responsiveness to individual and community needs; Acceptance of challenges and the need to reduce harm and suffering; Service to those who have experienced inequities and struggled to access care, and Persistence in our enduring vision for human growth and change.”  

Together on the edge, deserving to thrive.  



Aaron Ketzenberger 

Interim Development Director