Nikki Messenger

Nicki Messenger

Nikki Messenger

Issues surrounding homelessness have become a frequent topic of conversation in Roseburg. When we engage in those discussions, the question we hear the most is, “What is the City doing about illegal camping?” and “What is being done to clean things up?”

Illegal camping and the associated impacts are not new, and the City has historically partnered with Douglas County to provide work crews for those types of cleanups. However, due to recent court decisions and interpretations of the law, those cleanups were suspended for a number of months while the City and County worked together on an updated agreement to ensure compliance. That agreement is now in place, and cleanups on public property started again in mid-April. Plans and funding are in place to continue with regular cleanups over the course of the next several months. Because the program is just now getting re-started, we understand that there is a backlog of areas to be addressed and will continue to take on areas around the City on a priority basis.

One thing we’d like to make sure that people understand is that the process is more complicated than simply sending in a crew to clean up garbage. In order to comply with state law, there are a number of steps involved to undertake a legal cleanup process of an active camp. Those steps include:

  • Prior to removing homeless individuals from an established camping site, law enforcement officials are required to post a notice, written in English and Spanish, 24 hours in advance.
  • At the time that a 24-hour notice is posted, law enforcement officials are required to inform the local agency that delivers social services to homeless individuals where the notice has been posted
  • The local agency may arrange for outreach workers to visit the camping site where a notice has been posted to assess the need for social service assistance in arranging shelter and other assistance.
  • All unclaimed personal property must be given to law enforcement and stored for a minimum of 30 days during which it will be reasonably available to any individual claiming ownership. Personal property includes any item that is reasonably recognizable as belonging to a person and that has apparent utility.

In addition to following State law, it is important to complete the cleanup process as respectfully and humanely as possible, keeping in mind the Constitutional rights of all involved. While camping on public property is not legal, not having a permanent place to live is not a crime. The goal of the cleanups is to provide a clean and safe environment for users of our parks and other public property, but we also have a responsibility to provide information on services and resources to individuals being displaced. To be clear, camp cleanups are not a solution to homelessness, but we have heard the message from citizens that cleaning up those public areas is a priority.

Another message we’ve heard from the community is that people want to help. From the City’s perspective, there are a number of ways to do that.

  • For individuals utilizing parks or other public areas, it’s always OK to pick up trash you see along the river or path system.
  • For larger groups that would like to help in an organized cleanup effort, we ask that you coordinate with the City of Roseburg’s Parks Department as a registered volunteer group. You can call (541) 492-6730 with questions or to get registered. The Parks Department can help you with trash bags and pickers, point you to appropriate trash receptacles and advise on the best ways to clean up in natural or landscaped areas. We encourage these types of cleanups for general trash pickup, but not active camps.
  • If you spot an active camp, we want to know about it, but would rather take on any of those cleanups at the City level to ensure that the required legal and civil rights steps are taken. If you spot an active camp that may not have been reported, please call non-emergency dispatch at (541) 440-4471.

Thank you to community members who have already volunteered to help with cleanups and for the patience of citizens while we have worked through the process to reinstate the camp posting and cleanups at the City level. With the help of Douglas County, the Roseburg Police Department, Community Development Department and Parks and Public Works, we have a great team working on this issue, but will take all the help we can get. Please use the resources above to help us keep Roseburg safe and clean.

Nikki Messenger is Roseburgs public works director and city manager pro-tem.

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(2) comments


I agree, Sound8! Headline should read 'Roseburg is trying to Tackle Filth at Homeless Camps'. They are addressing some of the repercussions and sequela of homelessness; not the basic underlying problems. Putting bandaids on wounds that need surgery won't fix it in the long run.


The headline has nothing to do with the article.

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