VICTORIA -- A Nanaimo family got an unwelcome surprise when they returned from a three-week vacation on Sunday.

Squatters had apparently moved into their home and made a huge mess.

"It was awful – it smelled, our things had been ruined," said Allison Greenway, who rents the home with her family. "They were in our kids' beds." 

Greenway, along with her husband and their four kids under the age of nine, returned home Sunday from visiting family in the Yukon.

Greenway and her husband knew something was wrong as soon as they returned to their Nichol Street home.

"When we pulled into the driveway, nothing was where we left it," said Greenway.

They called police right away and entered the home with officers present.

The family discovered that their electronics and jewelry had been stolen and their personal belongings were strewn about throughout the home.

The squatters apparently even cut out the electronic voice boxes from the children's teddy bears.

"We don’t understand why someone would do that," said Greenway.

The family has been living in a hotel since Sunday while visiting their home to clean up the mess that was left behind.

"There was drug paraphernalia throughout," said Greenway. "There’s no way we could bring our kids home and know that they’re safe without clearing everything out. We have to restart our lives."

On Monday night, Greenway’s husband went to check the home while the family was at the hotel and noticed that someone was inside their home again.

Nanaimo RCMP were called and had to break down the front door and use a police dog after the person refused to come outside.

A 40-year-old man who is known to police was found in their kids' closet, according to police. He was taken into custody and has been arrested for breaking and entering.

"Who does that?" Greenway asked. "You can see that we are home. We are cleaning up 10 years of our lives that you ruined. Why would you come back?”

The family says the community support during the cleanup effort has been overwhelming and neighbours have donated items, including bed frames, mattresses, linens and dishes.

Greenway said she has ordered a new security system and hopes to have her family back in their home by Thursday.