New homeless shelter brings drugs and crime, neighbours say
LONDON, ONT. -- Some neighbours in middle-class homes next to a new homeless shelter in London say they’re noting an uptick in drug use and crime.
The concerns were sent by email to CTV News one day after a news story about the success of the shelter.
The shelter, comprised of converted construction trailers, is located in the parking lot of the T-Building on Elizabeth Street.
Currently, 32 people are housed there.
Most of the concerned residents, upset about the shelter, live on McMahen Street.
Some bought a property here because the street partially backs onto green space and a city park.
But now it also backs onto the temporary winter homeless shelter.
Since its creation just before Christmas, neighbours say they’ve noticed an increase in open drug use and property crime, especially at McMahen Park.
In an email, one resident stated the situation “makes us feel unsafe in our neighbourhood.”
CTV News heard similar stories in person Thursday, but each neighbour expressed fear and declined to speak on camera.
Yet some of those who plan to rely on the new shelter were willing to respond to the worries of residents.
‘Omar,’ who has been homeless since Dec. 1, has a friend inside the shelter already.
“Anywhere you go in the city, there is going to be drugs. So if not here, it’s going to be somewhere else.”
But it’s ‘here’ neighbours are concerned about.
Even though the city’s Informed Response Unit has attempted to discourage encampments, the neighbours contend they still pop up.
One occupier of a tent home at the entrance to McMahen Park is well known to London’s homeless responders.
‘Sunny’ says he set up in the hopes of being noticed. He says he wants a spot in the trailer to get warm.
"They said they’re going to help at McMahen Park, so I came with my property to McMahen Park for help.”
The head of homelessness prevention for the City of London, Craig Cooper, says it’s a balance between the concerns of neighbours and the needs of those in need.
“We are addressing any of the challenges that do come up. We are working with the neighbours there. We are getting some more work on some needles sweeps of the area.”
Cooper says that the safety of both individuals using the overnight resting space and community members are top priority.
“As part of the response, the overnight resting space is staffed during all operating hours along with full-time security on-site 24/7.”
And while needles weren’t found during a CTV walk-though, other signs of drug use were, including prescription pill bottles.
But as ‘Omar’ states you can find that anywhere.
He suggests residents should count on the city to clean any paraphernalia.
Cooper says the City together with the WISH coalition and community partners are working to respond to neighbourhood concerns.
“Two recent encampments in McMahen Park were removed following staff engaging with individuals to transition into shelter or resting space,” as of Saturday.
In the meantime, ‘Omar’ is appealing to the compassion of those who live next door.
“If all the communities reject the trailers, what are you saying - that a human being should be out in the cold?"
Cooper adds that unfortunately encampments and sleeping rough challenges are not new.
“The City routinely receives an average of 5-6 inquiries a month through our Coordinated Informed Response program for the area in and around McMahen park. We have not seen an increase in calls since the overnight resting space became operational in late December."