'It shouldn't have come down to this': Campers cleared from embattled ODOT land

Campers cleared from embattled ODOT land

PORTLAND, Ore. -- After months and multiple posted notices, some dated in May, a long embattled piece of ODOT land is clear, and the woman living next door is relieved.

Still Donna, who’s spoken to KGW several times about her months-long battle with aggressive campers living on the land, is upset it took so long.

“It shouldn't have come down to this,” she said. “If they could help the homeless people in the wintertime, get them shelter and all that, why can't they help them now? Why can't they at least find a way to help them?”

Over the past couple months, Donna said campers threatened her and her daughter repeatedly, attempted to break into their home and successfully broke into her shed, stealing her late husband’s yard equipment.

Related: 'I just want some help': Lents homeowner tired of trespassing homeless campers

Donna complained to the Oregon Department of Transportation, who owns the land, that she didn’t feel safe.

Officials said Portland police needed to clear the property. Police argued that ODOT, as the property owner, needed to take a stronger lead on that effort.

Donna also complained to the Mayor’s office and the Governor’s office. For months, nothing changed.

More: Gov. Brown addresses ODOT's homeless camp struggles

During a taping Friday of KGW's Straight Talk, with anchor Laural Porter, Donna’s plight resurfaced again.

Porter asked Mayor Wheeler, “Is there any way the city could have some kind of clearing house to handle these complaints?”

“That's exactly what we did,” responded Mayor Wheeler.

He added, he convened a meeting of everyone with a hand in managing properties like the one next to Donna’s Southeast Portland home, which for weeks was overrun with more than a dozen homeless campers.

Mayor Wheeler said Portland police, ODOT and TriMet were among the agencies present. In short, he says, they revised their strategy when it comes to coordinating.

“Now we're working together,” he said. “We’re posting simultaneously. We're enforcing simultaneously. In addition, we put four more park rangers on the beat in that area.”

Donna, who’s always been too afraid to show her face or give her last name, reaffirmed she’s glad to see progress made, but she added the lag time produced other problems.

She said her chain link fence was cut by campers and still has a large hole in it. Her yard is still littered with garbage, blankets and drug paraphernalia.

Donna has has started a GoFundMe page to help her pay for the repairs.

Further, she said, a lot of the campers moved into a vacant home a few properties down, and ODOT officials have said they can't do much to keep campers from coming back to their properties.

Donna is currently talking to a lawyer and said she fears her plight is far from finished.

“I just hope that other people don't have to go through this,” she said.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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