Squatters take over backyard, bring neighbors to tears

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Old dirty shoes, a beat-up cooler, even baby toys. At first you might think you're at the city landfill. But then you notice all the drug needles and camping gear, and it's obvious people have been squatting at this Southeast Portland property for months.

"When it's raining, when it's cold, when there's wind, you got walls and something to sleep on. It's better than being on the damn sidewalk," said a squatter who didn't want to give his name.

That squatter admits freely he's called the backyard home off and on since last summer. He sees no reason why he should leave.

That breaks Sarah Swayze's heart.

She grew up in this neighborhood. Now she lives right across the street from the backyard. She can't believe it has come to this.

"When I was a kid I could ride all the way around the block on my bike. I had friends. Now if my daughter wants to go out front I say, no way -- not by yourself. It breaks my heart," Swayze said.

Police say they can't do much. It's up to the property owner to clean it up.

So KATU went to the owner's office and asked him what he plans to do about it. He wouldn't do an interview but said he just got a demolition permit from the city and plans to knock down the makeshift homeless camp next week.

Swayze hopes he follows through on that promise so her daughter can play on the same streets she did years ago.

"That yard used to be so beautiful when I was a kid -- you wouldn't even believe it," Swayze said.