A city ordinance that would’ve severely restricted and criminally penalized unhoused people for resting in public is getting an overhaul. 

The previous version essentially prohibited people from resting in public from 8 am to 8 pm. That ordinance, approved by Portland City Council last year, was challenged in court, with plaintiffs arguing that the language of the code placed unreasonable requirements on people and left them with nowhere to go, since the region lacks enough shelter beds to accommodate the current number of people living on the streets.

The legal challenge led to a preliminary injunction that temporarily stopped the city from enforcing its new rules.

On Thursday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler unveiled a revised version of his time, place, and manner ordinance, which proposes far fewer restrictions on the city’s unhoused population and is contingent on the city providing an adequate number of shelter beds. By apparently softening its rules, the city hopes to find enough solid legal ground to allow some degree of enforcement against homeless camping.

As proposed, the new regulations would ditch the previous restrictions on what time of day people may rest in public. The ordinance would also clarify how the city defines “camping” and only apply to those who have “reasonable alternative shelter” or have declined an offer of shelter. The mayor’s proposal also reduces—but will still enforce—criminal penalties for non-compliance, leveling a fine up to $100, jail for up to seven days (previously 30 days), or both. 

Wheeler’s proposal is a substantial departure from the previous code language, which required unhoused people to pack up their belongings each day and find somewhere to go for 12 hours. The city’s legal team says it addressed most of the issues noted in the lawsuit filed last year.

"The City Attorney’s Office believes these new proposed regulations would survive a legal challenge while providing the City the tools to change the status quo in Portland," City Attorney Robert Taylor said in Thursday’s announcement.

A revised ordinance wasn’t a surprise. Earlier this year, the council hinted at the likelihood of drafting new language, after the city's writ of mandamus—which asked the Oregon Supreme Court to hear the case after a circuit court judge ruled against the city—was declined. If the ordinance is adopted, the pending lawsuit against the city will likely be dropped. 

The proposal still needs approval from the council. Wheeler anticipates a council vote on April 18.

This time, it’s expected to garner approval from Commissioner Carmen Rubio, who was the lone “no” vote on the last ordinance. At the time, Rubio said she wasn’t comfortable with a punitive approach until the city had enough shelter beds to offer. Now, she’s more receptive.

“Several months ago I suggested repealing and replacing the current ordinance—so the fact that we are considering a new ordinance is already progress in my eyes,” Rubio told the Mercury. “As I said during my vote on the original ordinance, I wanted to see a phased approach to implementation with opening of more shelter capacity, involving the shelter providers in timelines and language, ensuring that the police bureau had time to train the officers charged with implementation, and ensuring that any ordinance we pass does not send someone to jail solely for being homeless.”

Rubio noted she’s still deliberating with her staff and dissecting the ordinance to find out how the language and drafting process differs from the previous one, but said she’s “hopeful this new ordinance has a better, more inclusive process.”