British Columbia

Nanaimo residents raise crime, safety concerns about temporary housing

Since the housing for 80 people opened, residents say they have been finding needles and garbage in the area and there has been an uptick in thefts, trespassing and vandalism.

Operator of facility on Terminal Avenue says security improvements coming

The temporary housing site on Terminal Avenue in Nanaimo during construction in November. Neighbours have complained to council about what they say are crime and safety issues at the site. (CHEK News)

Frustration is building in a Nanaimo, B.C., neighbourhood, where residents say a new supportive housing facility has not been the best neighbour.

The province recently built the temporary facility on Terminal Avenue to provide shelter for people who were staying in a tent city.

But since the housing for 80 people opened, residents like Peter Giovando say neighbours have been finding needles and garbage in the area and there has been an uptick in thefts, trespassing and vandalism.

"Drug deals are taking place in the street. The people that are living closest to it are experiencing noise 24 hours a day," Giovando told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"People don't feel secure in their own neighbourhood or even their homes anymore."

Giovando was among a group of residents who went to a council meeting in Nanaimo on Monday night to raise concerns.

He's hoping the mayor and council will take action on what he called "an unworkable situation."

'There have been consequences'

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said there's "no question" the housing project is negatively affecting the community.

Part of the problem, he believes, is that the temporary facilities, which he likened to work trailers with poor security, allow too many people to come and go.

"Pretty clearly, this was put together far too quickly and there have been consequences," Krog said.

"I am hopeful and relatively confident that … with some improved management, care, changes to the physical structure, that hopefully many of the problems can be fixed."

He explained the project rapidly came together in response to Nanaimo's "Discontent City" homeless camp being shut down by a court order.

Krog said the city has increased patrols in the area and police are organizing block watch programs. Staff, he said, are getting reports on the situation and are working with B.C. Housing and the Island Crisis Care Society, which operates the building.

'We're seeing some positive things'

B.C. Housing, in a statement, said it was aware of the concerns about the Terminal Avenue site.

It described the site as a "short-term solution" as plans for more permanent housing are developed.

"A number of measures have already been implemented, including the installation of improved lighting and the hiring of an experienced security firm," a statement from the ministry of housing read.

"Other measures are underway to improve the security of the fencing and access to the site to ensure that only residents and authorized people are accessing the site."

Violet Hayes, Island Crisis Care Society's executive director, said in addition to physical security measures, the society is liasing with the community about their concerns.

But she emphasized the Terminal Avenue site is having a positive impact on the people living there.

Two residents are seeking help for drug problems and another just got a job, she added.

"Yes, it is a difficult situation, but, yes, we do need to do something and we have responded," Hayes said. "Now we're seeing some positive things in the lives of the people we're helping."

Listen to the full story:

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West

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