Ashland will keep its ban on camping in public places despite objections from the American Civil Liberties Union that the ban is "cruel and unusual" and violates the Constitutional rights of the homeless.

Ashland will keep its ban on camping in public places despite objections from the American Civil Liberties Union that the ban is "cruel and unusual" and violates the Constitutional rights of the homeless.

The City Council voted Tuesday to retain the ban, but agreed that those caught camping illegally will not be subject to jail time. They can be fined up to $500 or sentenced to 48 hours of community service.

The city will give 24 hours' written notice, in both English and Spanish, that a campsite is illegal. The city will store any property seized after that for 60 days, an increase from the previous 14 days.

The council will vote again Nov. 4 on whether to finalize the changes.

The move came in response to a lawsuit the ACLU of Southern California and the National Lawyers Guild filed in 2003 to fight a Los Angeles ban on homeless people sitting, lying and sleeping in public.

In a settlement, the city of Los Angeles agreed it would not enforce the ban between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. until it had built a substantial amount of housing for the homeless.

Ralph Temple of the Southern Oregon Chapter of the ACLU asked Ashland City Council members to change the city's camping ban so that it would not apply between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. The ban could go back into effect during those hours after the city had built 50 units of housing with support services for homeless people.

City Attorney Richard Appicello said he does not believe the city needs to lift its camping ban or build housing for the homeless because there is a shelter in Medford. He said Los Angeles got into trouble because of insufficient shelter throughout the metropolitan area.

Ashland does not have an overnight shelter to house the homeless, although it has emergency provisions to open a city building overnight to shelter people during extreme weather. The camping ban also can be suspended during emergencies.

— Ashland Daily Tidings