Living In A Van That’s Not Down By The River

I live in an odd part of SE that’s semi-industrial mixed with residential. The street our duplex is on is fairly isolated, and at night pretty empty except for the people sitting on the bridge drinking 40’s. It’s great if you want to crank up your music because there’s no one around to complain. However, in the summertime it tends to be seen as some sort of urban campsite by people in vans and old converted school buses.

A few years ago we had the east-coast trustafarians who showed up in their bus intent on busking in Portland and camping out in my front yard. They were very sweet kids, but I had to point out that there were actually hostels in town that might be a better place to camp out while they were in Portland trying to channel Ken Kesey.

Last year we had the meth guy living in his van for a couple of weeks. For some idiotic reason I’m always the one who gets nominated to go knock on the window and let them know that camping out on our street isn’t an option. So far I’ve been lucky and haven’t had to deal with guns or completely crazed people.

So now we have another van that someone’s living in. It turns out that he works across the street and is sort of in-between places at the moment. He hasn’t caused any problems, and I haven’t seen human poop or anything in the yard, so my dilemma is how long do you let someone camp out in front of your house before it’s a problem. Because the street is so isolated it’s pretty disturbing to know that there’s someone sleeping in their van outside your apartment. Someone who you don’t know, and have no idea why they’re temporarily homeless. How long before KATU is there with a reporter breaking the story about the residents of a duplex who were murdered in their sleep by a guy living in a van that was parked outside of their residence for a month. Maybe he’s a motivational speaker. I don’t know. I’m just kind of glad the weather is changing because I’m pretty sure when it finally gets cold at night he’ll probably find a couch to surf on for a while.

9 Comments so far

  1. smash hits (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2007 @ 9:56 am

    call the cops (non-emergency#503-823-3333)


  2. divebarwife (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2007 @ 10:15 am

    We get the occasional campers in our neighborhood in NE as well – not right by our house – but close enough that it’s a bit weird.

    But then once last summer when the police showed up to ask one of them to move – he threatened to blow his camper up right there on Killingsworth….so be careful when you go window knocking!


  3. Matt Davis (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2007 @ 10:18 am

    Sounds like someone needs to get back..on the RIGHT TRACK!


  4. Kai (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2007 @ 10:25 am

    I’m sorry Matt you lost me.


  5. Cami (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2007 @ 10:34 am

    I hate the thought of you knocking on the van windows to be the one to tell them/him/her/ whoever they can’t live there. I agree with divebarwife and smash hits.

    Be careful. Be safe.


  6. Ezra Hilyer (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

    Really sad how people seem to jump at calling the cops as the first solution to problems. Calling the cops should be the LAST resort. Unless they are a problem or a safety threat, I would talk to them, just kinda get to know if they are moving on in the near future, or if they need help. don’t just pass them on to the police, see if you can solve the problem yourself.


  7. jonashpdx (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

    what’s wrong with calling the cops in a non-emergency way? aren’t they public servants? it’s not like they’re automatically going to arrest someone, but like some commenters pointed out above, if for any reason someone doesn’t like the idea that you’re asking them to move on, at least the police are (hopefully) trained to deal with that better than the average citizen. it’d really be nice, i think, if there wasn’t always such an antagonistic reaction to “the police” as this monolithic evil thing.


  8. Taylor (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

    Matt – are you comparing homeless van-campers to Sly & the Family Stone? I could see it.

    Introducing police to the mix will automatically escalate the situation. Now, sometimes that can’t be avoided, but remember that police are trained to use force or the threat of force as their primary means for motivating people to do as they command.

    So, if you’ve got a peaceful squatter (who sounds like he’s not bothering you), why not show up with a 6 pack of Henry’s or some equally decent but cheap beer and see if you can strike up a conversation? Most people are decent and don’t wish to bother others and, if given a chance, will treat you the way you treat them.


  9. Kai (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2007 @ 3:02 pm

    I’ve called the non-emergeny number in the past when it was something I didn’t feel comfortable dealing with. We had a van parked out one night, with two obviously drunk guys unloading garbage from the back. They looked like they could have gotten aggressive so figured I’d let the police deal with them. They showed up quickly and handled the situation really well.

    The guy living out front right now hasn’t been any sort of nuisance other than making us feel a little uncomfortable. There isn’t garbage from him being there, and when my neighbor did talk to him he was a decent guy. So we figured will see what happens in a couple of weeks and find out what his plans are. The beer idea is good except she said the guy really likes to talk and we wouldn’t be able to get him off our porch if we plied him beer.



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