PORTLAND, Ore. — Metal shovels filled with burned clothing and garbage scrape against the cement sidewalk as a crew from Central City Concern cleans debris from a homeless tent site.
The debris is from a fire that broke out at the camp site on the corner of Southeast 33rd Avenue and Powell Boulevard, right next to Grover Cleveland High School’s track and sports field.
So far this month, Portland Fire and Rescue has responded to 74 fires, 20 of them at homeless tent sites.
"Houseless tent fires have happened more in recent history," said Terry Foster, public information officer for Portland Fire and Rescue. "Any time a fire can extend is dangerous to all the neighborhoods."
This fire at Southeast 33rd and Powell was the latest in a recent string of events involving this camp that have left neighbors unsettled.
"We live in a war zone basically and there’s nothing I can do," said Elias Giangos, who said he's lived in the neighborhood for the past seven years. He and his wife plan to move out at the end of the month. Giangos said he was assaulted multiple times by those living at the campsite. Scars from the time he was stabbed by someone living at the campsite disfigure his left arm.
"Even when I was getting assaulted, we called the police, there’s no response," he said.
"Expect for the murder, this probably takes second place for the crazy stuff that's been going on," said Sara Cowles, who said she's lived in the neighborhood for the past two years.
Cowles said last week, a man living at the camp stared through her living room window one night. She said she never leaves her apartment at night and keeps her doors and windows locked at all times.
"It’s terrifying as a female, single woman living on the bottom floor," Cowles said. "It's completely unnerving."
Cowles said when she first moved in, there was a shooting that killed one of the campers.
"There were five different shots and one skimmed over a neighbor's car," Cowles said.
Another went right through her living room, Cowles said.
The bullet hole is a daily reminder of the dangers right outside her front door.
"It's gotten to the point where my family is like, 'We want you out of there,'" she said. Cowles said she also plans to move out at the end of the month.
Residents at Powell Gardens Apartments tell KGW their apartment building management has tried calling the city about the camp numerous times. KGW reached out to the management team but didn’t hear back.
"I don’t know that there’s going to be an end to it," Cowles said. "I just don't think there will be."
From June 6-12, the city received 1,981 new reports from residents about problematic campsites. The Impact Reduction Team cleaned 12 of them and removed 52.
The camp on Southeast 33rd and Powell was not on the list. Many of the campers left after last week's fire but residents fear after a few days, more tents will start popping back up.