It’s a situation indicative of the complexity of London, Ont.’s homelessness crisis.
Steps taken to remove an encampment that was unpopular with neighbours may have driven the social challenges deeper into the residential area.
After a chaotic Easter weekend requiring calls to police, paramedics, and by-law enforcement officers, the three frontline agencies operating out of 602 Queens Ave. (at Adelaide Street) hired 24/7 security to ensure the safety of their staff, clients, and neighbours.
The encampment was removed in order to comply with the terms of their lease.
Now some residents believe the unintended consequence of improving safety at 602 Queens Ave. has been reduced safety in the neighbourhood.
“It pushes those same people further into the neighbourhood,” said Darcy, who lives in the Old East Village but asked that CTV News not use her last name. “I know there are porches across the street that have now put up barricades because they’re coming up on porches to sleep.”
Darcy’s partner recently asked people to remove their tents from Lorne Avenue Park.
CTV News spoke to a woman who asked to only be identified as Angie after she walked her dog past two people injecting drugs in the park.
Angie also feels the enhanced security at 602 Queens Ave. has left vulnerable people with no place to go, “It definitely has spread out. They go to places like parks where there are children.”
London Cares, Regional HIV/AIDS Connection, and the Sisters of St. Joseph Cafe are all located at 602 Queens Ave. and support the basic needs of people experiencing homelessness.
Anne Armstrong, executive director of London Cares, said the agencies are actively engaging with the neighbourhood, “I totally understand neighbours’ frustrations, however, right now there isn’t another place for folks who are sleeping rough to go.”
Council has endorsed a long-term plan to address the homelessness crisis.
The $247.5 million Whole of Community Response to Homelessness will create up to 15 service hubs and 600 supportive housing units — but the first three to five hubs won’t open until the end of this year.
On Tuesday, council decided to provide $200,000 to cover security costs from April through September at 602 Queens Ave. and at a shelter on Horton Street.
During the next two months, city staff are to return to council with alternative solutions to address safety concerns at the agencies and in the surrounding neighbourhood.
“Something that we can fund that will help everybody,” Councillor Susan Stevenson explained to her council colleagues on Tuesday. “How can we help these people so that they don’t have the aggression, and so they have someplace to go?”
Armstrong said London Cares is willing to work on solutions that benefit everyone, “We’re absolutely willing to work with the city. We want to. They are a collaborative partner. We also have been doing neighbourhood engagement.”
(Source: CTV News)