No easy solution to drug issues frustrating social housing tenants
LONDON, ONT. -- It is 'housing of last resort,' and now the city's drug problem is spilling into social housing.
Tenants at 235 Grey Street say they are fed up, as their building has become a place where the homeless seek shelter and use drugs.
Concerned for their safety, they have filed complaints with the property management group, Arnsby, which oversees the day-to-day functions of the building.
But the tenants claim those complaints have gone unanswered.
Christina Fowler, who has been living inside one of the rent-geared-to-income units on Grey Street for nearly a decade says, “My grandson can’t come and step over needles, and see naked people in the hallways trying to shoot up.”
Fowler suffers from a number of health issues, and says she can’t afford to live anywhere else.
“There’s needles, there’s urine, there’s feces, there’s all kinds of things that put everybody’s health at risk. And you can’t leave your apartment after dark because you don’t know who you’re going to run into," she says.
Despite the fact that the building has security cameras at all entry points, the homeless have been breaking in, and seeking shelter in the stairwell.
Arnsby Property Management, has been hired by non-profit Odel-Jalna (a part of Homes Unlimited), owns and operates 445 affordable housing units in seven locations across the City of London.
Senior Property Manager Chris Payne, who oversees 18 properties, including 235 Grey Street, says people are trying to escape the cold because they’re desperate.
“No one sleeps in the stairwell because life is going great, they’ll often times defecate, and urinate in the stairwell, all the liter, the drug paraphernalia that they find, yeah it’s an ongoing issue,” Payne says.
He adds that Arnsby is doing everything within their power, but they are working with limited resources.
He says Grey Street is in an $18,000 deficit, because it’s not just the damage left behind by the trespassers, but unit turnovers.
He recalls an incident where the unit was left with catastrophic damage, costing upwards of $35,000 to repair, which ultimately comes from public funding.
Fowler says she’d like to see full-time security guards hired around-the-clock to patrol the building.
But Payne argues that is too costly. Instead, the management company has agreed to try periodic security patrols in the building for 30 days, three times per night.
The cost for that security is $2,200 per month, which will have to come out of the building’s maintenance budget.
At present, the superintendent lives off-property, which Payne says is due to the fact that the project has been very difficult to manage in the last couple of years, and no one wants the job.
“I can’t disclose what the super's salary is, but I’ll say this, not many people would do it for the money that he is getting paid. It is admirable that he is doing it.”