WORKING TOGETHER – Community Safety for Businesses
Understanding our Community
People experiencing houselessness, mental illness, or substance abuse are becoming more prevalent in the Portland Metro area. In response, the City of Happy Valley continues to work on solutions to address these types of concerns in our community. This includes connecting people with resources that might be beneficial and providing general education to our greater community. The City of Happy Valley understands an increase in houselessness impacts everyone, including businesses that want to provide a safe environment for employees and customers. The following information serves to provide some understanding of what businesses can do if faced with a concern regarding a complicated matter such as those outlined above.
Creating Healthy Boundaries
While the presence of someone experiencing houselessness is not a predicament in and of itself, some situations can pose a concern that warrant intervention.
Loitering, for instance, can have undesirable effects on business. Other behaviors can also cause a threat to personal safety. Customers often do not feel comfortable patronizing a business if someone appears disheveled, is under the influence of a substance, or demonstrates violent behavior.
These examples can drive customers away and be unsafe for employees. Addressing the matter is key, but it is important to do so in a way that ensures the safety and dignity of everyone involved.
Below are some helpful tips of how to manage situations that you or your staff may encounter:
- BE PROACTIVE:
Posted signs indicating Customers Only and No Loitering communicate to everyone that your property is an operating business and makes clear your expectations to anyone who approaches. Keeping your business entryway clear, easily accessible, and with a good line of sight also supports an environment conducive to safety. Some businesses choose to install video cameras or video monitoring systems as an additional safeguard.
- BE ATTENTIVE:
Know your surroundings and keep a general eye on the happenings within your business and its vicinity. By doing so, you can identify concerns more readily and intervene in a planful way. If you witness behavior that is unsafe, threatening, unlawful, or is not conducive to business, you may need to intervene. Depending on the situation, you may feel at ease taking this step and asking or directing someone to leave, but in other circumstances, you may need to ask for support.
- WHAT TO DO:
If a person’s behavior is violent, threatens the safety of the individual or others, or you simply do not feel comfortable approaching, CALL THE POLICE. It is not recommended you approach an individual in active crisis given the many factors that could pose significant risk to you, employees, or your customers. If the individual is struggling with mental illness or is under the influence of a substance, for example, a trained professional will have some additional resources to help diffuse the situation. Happy Valley Police Deputies and the City’s Community Service Officers have received extensive training to help support in these situations and can provide effective verbal de-escalation or physical intervention as appropriate.
For quick reference:
Call 9-1-1 if the individual is actively engaged in violent or life-threatening behaviors.
Call 503-655-8211 for the non-emergency police line if danger is not imminent.
When talking with a dispatcher, be prepared to give your business name, address, and call back number, as well as a full description of the individual(s) you are reporting. Be sure to take note of clothing type and color, distinguishing features, approximate height and weight, and current location or the direction they traveled if they left.
- ADDITIONAL STEPS:
In many instances, asking an individual to leave, whether that is directed by you or law enforcement, can successfully remedy a situation and no further action is needed. If, however, there is legitimate concern or behavior by an individual becomes a pattern, you, as the business owner, do have the right to take additional steps.Through the Exclusion Program, individuals who are unwanted at your business because of exhibited behaviors that clearly pose a safety challenge can be identified as such and provided swift and clear consequences to their actions if they return to your business. Consequences include a citation, $1,000 fine, and even arrest. By working with law enforcement and communicating your concerns, you may determine an Exclusionary Agreement is warranted as a measure to further safeguard yourself, your staff, and your customers.
Approaching Safety with Compassion
Safety is one of the top priorities for the City of Happy Valley. Please consider our team as a partner to your efforts in managing a situation involving an individual causing concern.
Community members may find themselves in need of community services for a multitude of reasons and focusing on responding to an individual’s distress in a calm and planful way can help keep a situation from escalating. This can go a long way in reassuring your staff and customers that your business is safe and ideal for visiting.
Is Outdoor Camping Allowed?
Recent court cases have significantly limited the ability of cities to restrict camping in all areas. Specifically, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the District Court for the District of Oregon have both ruled that it is unlawful for cities to prosecute or civilly punish people experiencing houselessness who are sleeping outside. Following these court cases, the Oregon Legislature adopted new rules to provide guidance to cities in creating reasonable regulations.
In response, the City of Happy Valley is working with the City Attorney to further define where and when camping is allowed within Happy Valley. At the same time, the City is working to develop partnerships with other agencies and non-profits to provide emergency shelter beds to those in need.