County adjusts homeless camping ordinance

·2 min read

Dec. 26—Coos County updated its rules regarding removing homeless people camping on county property in an effort to comply with state law.

The biggest change in the new regulations approved this week is a requirement that all property left behind when someone is removed be held for 30 days before it can be disposed of. There are exceptions for trash, weapons, drugs or dangerous items, all that can be destroyed immediately.

The county ordinance gives the sheriff's office the authority to remove almost all homeless camping on county property. That includes those camping in the rights of way along roads other than state highways and city streets.

Once the sheriff's office has determined someone is camping on county property, outside of specific campsites and day-use areas at city parks, deputies can direct those camping to leave. If they refuse, the sheriff's office must post a written notice giving those camping 72 hours to leave themselves. If they still refuse to leave, they can be removed.

Before removing campers, the sheriff's office must also notify agencies that provide services to the homeless, giving those agencies time to reach out to those camping before the 72 hours is up.

If someone is removed, all personal property seized by the sheriff's office must be stored for 30 days. One big change in state law is that the property must now be stored in the same community the camping site was located.

Commissioner John Sweet said he was concerned that would cost the county more money, but county Counsel Nathan McClintock said it could add some expense if a storage unit had to be rented, but he felt the expense would be minimal.

"I assume we have no choice but to adopt this," Sweet said, before he and Commissioner Melissa Cribbins voted in favor.

Commissioners also voted to give employees at Coos Health and Wellness a one-time bonus as a retention payment. The funding is provided by the Oregon Health Authority and can only be used for retention payments for medical professionals who dealt with COVID-19.

"I'm concerned this might spread to the rest of the staff in our county and how we would fund that," Sweet said.

"It is my experience as a commissioner that when we offer something to one group of employees, we do get questions," Cribbins added.

Mike Rowley, the director of Coos Health and Wellness, said the funding set aside by the state can only be used in his department and if it is not used, it will be returned .

With that information, the commissioners voted 2-0 to accept the funding for retention payments.