Encampment Management Program

Due to many complex factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, our community has experienced a dramatic increase in unsanctioned camping on public property. Throughout this difficult time, Washington County has been working closely with allied agencies and community partners to address the urgent needs of individuals experiencing homelessness. In response to this challenge, the Board of County Commissioners has created a program to improve countywide coordination and management of encampments.

Under Washington County’s organizational framework, the Encampment Management Program (EMP) is leading a multi-agency effort to assist individuals living in homeless encampments and balance the health and safety needs of all community members. The County’s ultimate goal is to connect people in need with emerging community resources and help create pathways to stable, permanent housing.

The following represent key EMP strategies to ensure effective coordination and support among several County departments and our jurisdictional partners:

  • Intensive outreach—outreach workers visit regularly to connect people to supportive services and provide housing navigation assistance.
     
  • Centralized point of contact—the program provides information to community members and stakeholders and helps coordinate services.
     
  • Sanitary and solid waste management—sanitation services include portable toilets, handwashing stations and garbage collection.
     
  • Health and safety assessments—regular risk assessments are used to evaluate conditions like uncontained garbage, conspicuous drug use, criminal activity, environmental impact and camp size. Assessment results help to determine what type of response is needed.
     
  • Assigned Sheriff’s deputy—a dedicated outreach deputy from the Sheriff’s Office works to address public safety concerns and coordinate with other law enforcement agency partners.

During the global pandemic, Washington County is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Oregon Health Authority and County Public Health officials to allow people who are camping outdoors to remain where they are, when safe to do so, to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Local governments are also impacted by the Supreme Court case Martin v. Boise that prohibits enforcement action against people who are sleeping outside due to lack of available shelter space in the community.
 

Additional information and resources