City investigating apparent squatters in west end
The City of Windsor is investigating after a wooded area in the city's west end has turned into a camp ground for the homeless.
Residents living in and around the 400 block of Crawford Avenue have turned to CTV News for help.
They claim activity stemming from the back of their property is making their lives unbearable.
Behind a strip of homes on Crawford Avenue lies a wooded area, neighbours say it’s being taken over by homeless drug users.
On site, a bed, sleeping bag, shoes, underwear, canned food, spaghetti sauce, among other things can be seen.
CTV News reporter Stefanie Masotti also came across this computer chair, children's toys, records and several items that could indicate the use of alcohol and drugs.
One man on site briefly talked to CTV News, asking to leave him alone.
"I live in a (expletive) bush. I have a hard enough time as it is," he said.
It's a confrontation that is hard for resident Crystal Belanger to watch.
"Just devastated, just devastated," says Belanger. "It's insanity. I can't handle this anymore."
Belanger and other neighbours say the squatting behind their houses isn't the only issue, they say people are trespassing and stealing items from their property.
"It keeps you up at night,” she says. “You don't sleep, you hear noises."
Ward 3 councillor Rino Bortolin is aware of the concerns.
"This issues downtown are tied to the needles, drug use,” says Bortolin. “And then the petty crime attached to it so the steeling of bike, breaking into sheds anything to pawn off to get their immediate need for the drug."
Bylaw enforcement officers with the city inspected the situation on Friday.
City officials say the property belongs to two local business owners.
Both have been informed of the situation and city officials say they have been told to remove the camps or face a fine.
"We will be asking police to go through there regularly so that it’s not a regular spot they go to."
Windsor police Const. Andrew Drouillard says issues like this occur across the city.
"Incidences that happen on private property, we work with those property owners to have the issues taken care of so if these squatter or excessive littering then we will work with those property owners to allocate offenses accordingly,” says Drouillard.
Bortolin says research continues to take place in order to determine where funding for issues like this is best suited whether its housing, additional needles boxes or safe injection sites.
He tells CTV News the goal is to get these individuals into temporary shelter, later followed by permanent housing as part of the "housing first strategy. He also adds issues like this are complex because in order for these people to receive help, they have to want to receive the help.