PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) — Mediation sessions for a first-of-its-kind lawsuit in Portland continued this week.
In early September, 10 Portlanders with mobility disabilities sued the city of Portland over tents and debris blocking sidewalks, claiming the city was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Barbara Jacobsen, one of the plaintiffs in the case, was born and raised in Portland and uses a motorized scooter to get around. She said tents on sidewalks place those with disabilities in dangerous situations.
The lawsuit is seeking a federal court order for the city to clear — and keep clear — all sidewalks and make them safe and useable. It also asks the city to build or buy emergency shelters for those unsheltered people who will be displaced when the sidewalks are cleared.’
John DiLorenzo is the attorney representing the group of Oregonians who filed the suit. He said the 9th circuit has been pretty clear that cities are responsible for making sure they don’t discriminate against people with disabilities. DiLorenzo claims the city is taking tent removal more seriously than Multnomah County.
After a subpoena was issued on behalf of the plaintiffs to Multnomah County and the Joint Office of Homeless Services, DiLorenzo said it was revealed that $2 million of taxpayer money was used to purchase 22,700 tents and 69,514 tarps between March 26, 2020 and September 6, 2022. The bigger problem, he said, was there were limited regulations on who would receive the tents.
“I can’t sue the county under the ADA because they’re not in charge of sidewalks. But I’m suing the city because they’re in charge of the sidewalks. Why am I suing them at all? Because of all the tent encampments on the sidewalks. Who put them there? The county,” DiLorenzo said.
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