LONDON, ONT. -- Rent-geared-to-income is a vital part of the housing spectrum in the City of London, but an ongoing problem with drug addiction has now started to impact social housing.

A walk-through of a recently vacated townhouse in the city’s south end reveals shocking damage and extensive drug paraphernalia left behind by the previous tenant - who struggled with addiction.

For Chris Payne, a senior property manager with Arnsby Property Management, this scene has become far too common.

“Fifteen years ago, you’d see maybe one of these per year, now we are getting them once a month,” says Payne about the frequency of destroyed rent-geared-to-income units.

Payne says to get the townhouse back to its original state, it will cost up to $15,000.

"We're looking at garbage removal to start with, and there's extra cost because of the drug paraphernalia, but nowadays too, we are concerned with, 'Is there any fentanyl lying anywhere,' that you can contact and overdose, through very transient exposure,” adds Payne.

So how did we get here? How did no one notice? And if they did, why didn't it stop?

For starters, having a drug addiction is not reason to evict.

Payne says, despite the fact that they conduct a walk-through of the units early, most of the damage escalates quickly.

He adds that it’s rare that management companies are tipped off from social agencies that there is a problem. And because Payne says they are in the housing business, eviction is the last resort - adding that when you go down that route, it takes a long time.

“The wait time for hearings can be upwards of four months, and that's after you’ve given warnings, and you have gone through the process of trying to correct it internally,” he says.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Chris Mackie, with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, says we are leaving about 20 per cent of the population behind.

That's a huge number of people in our region living in poverty, which is ultimately spilling into these housing units.

“If you are not addicted once you become homeless, you will be within about a month. And once you are into the environment, the culture is using whatever you can to survive where you are. It's not about taking care of your home or your environment. And so if we have a lot of people living in that culture, now its winter time and they are trying to survive, so of course they are coming indoors."

Indoors to places like the townhome we toured, in a small complex off Commissioners Road, which Payne says was likely once was a safe place for a single mother with her daughter, but turned into drug house.

Mackie says that there are a number of initiatives on the health care side, with programs for people with mental illness and supervised consumption facilities to help get some of the drug use off the street and into safer environment.

But he adds, "These are downstream, band-aid solutions. We need to look upstream, we need to look at employment for people with low skills."

Payne says the idea is to get people stabilized and help them move on to better circumstances, but it doesn’t always work that way.

Some people will always be in the system, so in the meantime - companies like Arnsby try to accommodate the need for social housing.

In the meantime, Mackie says, we shouldn’t be kicking people out of their homes because they have an addiction or mental illness, because these health issues that are often out of their control.

“We should be identifying how to provide services so that people are supported and they can be successful and not impacting their neighbours in a negative way.”