'They came back': Homeowner feels helpless as campers return to ODOT land

'They're back!'; campers return to ODOT land

PORTLAND, Ore. -- This week, a Southeast Portland woman fell back into her well-worn routine of calling Portland police, Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office and the Oregon Department of Transportation

Donna, who hasn’t wanted to reveal her last name, lives in the embattled Lents neighborhood, right next to a piece of land owned by ODOT.

For months, homeless campers set up shop on that piece of land. Last month, after weeks of calling and filing complaints, the city and the state posted notices and cleared campers from that property.

Background: Homeless campers removed from ODOT land

Last week, Donna said, campers returned.

“All of a sudden, they came back, like unbelievable,” she said. “There have been no notices again, the holes [in my fence] have been opened up. They’re coming on my property again. I don't know what else to do.”

A spokesman for ODOT confirmed to KGW on Friday that in scenarios such as this one, the process of removing campers starts all over again.

Plagued by past lawsuits, the agency is bound by strict legal restraints.

Spokesman Don Hamilton reiterated via phone on Friday that ODOT workers can post notices and eventually clear possessions or items from their property.

They can’t force people to leave. Only police can do that.

A spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau argued recently, that ODOT, as a property owner, has to take a stronger lead in such scenarios, showing up with officers and pressing charges against trespassers.

Both sources agreed, that back and forth often leaves people like Donna waiting for weeks, if not months, for action to be taken.

This time, she points out, the campers returning was predictable and should have been prevented.

“I said ‘Why can't you guys put rocks or boulders up here to keep them from camping up here?’” Donna said of her conversation with ODOT. “They feel it would be too much money. I feel it would be a lot cheaper than having rangers or the police come up here. But I guess I don't matter.”

© 2017 KGW-TV


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