A group that does community patrols in North Central is raising a red flag about an abandoned house neighbours say has become a “shooting gallery” for drug users.
Shawna Oochoo is the organizer of White Pony Lodge which started patrolling the neighbourhood in response to violence early this summer. She said when the patrol group went out this weekend they decided to check out the boarded-up house on the corner of Angus Street and Dewdney Avenue. She said they expected it to be bad, but they were shocked at how many used needles they found.
“Once we actually got on the property, that’s when we realized like ‘whoa’ – there was more than what we expected when it came to finding the needles and you know the drug paraphernalia, the condoms and stuff like that – there was a lot of concerning material that is being left behind there,” she said.
Oochoo said the property has been boarded up for a long time and neighbours told the volunteers it has been the subject of a lot of calls to police. She said people who live in the apartment building next door don’t want to go outside anymore because they know they will see people shooting up drugs.
White Pony Lodge is working with some other organizations to get the city to address the safety and health hazard posed by this building.
“It’s not fair to the people who live around it. It’s not fair to the children,” she said. “That’s another thing that we’ve heard from some of the residents who live around there is you know sometimes kids are seen picking up those needles.”
Oochoo also noted there is a youth treatment facility nearby and it’s really not fair for youth who are dealing with addictions to see that kind of activity nearby. She said the house should have been torn down or fixed up a long time ago.
Wade Murray is the city councillor for Ward 6 and answered questions about the house during a news conference on Tuesday. He said the city is aware of the situation on this particular property and the issues it poses.
“That particular house is somewhat unique in that it has experienced two fires, and right now the owners of that property are under some issues with their insurance company, so until they get that sorted out we as a community are stuck with it,” he said.
Murray said the city has sent bylaw enforcement officers out to keep the yard cleaned up and they want to make sure the police are patrolling the area to prevent illegal activity.
“We’re dealing with an insurance company and the owners and they’re the ones who have got to sort it out, because it’s really their property,” he said.
For Oochoo, leaving a house like this is unacceptable and it needs to be dealt with.
“Something does need to be done, and whether it’s from the city or from the owner, somebody needs to step up and do something.”