Four homeless camps discovered by needle cleanup volunteers in Cambridge

Volunteers in Cambridge who pick-up needles say they discovered four sites of abandoned homeless camps. Mayor Doug Craig says it's a problem on private property.

'We saw there was also evidence that children were living at that campsite,' volunteer says

Alicia Brown, the administrator of the group, said the biggest camp their group discovered was located approximately 50 metres away from the Paris Trail. (Facebook: Working Towards a Cleaner Cambridge)

Volunteers in Cambridge who pick up needles have discovered four abandoned homeless camps.

Alicia Brown, the administrator of the group Working Towards a Cleaner Cambridge, said the camps were found on Saturday and they saw the highest number of needles on these sites than they've seen anywhere else.

There were piles of garbage found along the Paris Trail on one of the group's organized clean-ups — tents, propane tanks, pipes, alcohol swabs and needles were just a few items found.

There was also "everything drug related you can think of," Brown said. 

"Unfortunately, at the bigger camp, we saw there was also evidence that children were living at that campsite." 

The group of volunteers also picked up six containers worth of needles — two large bins and four Sharps containers full, Brown said, which included unused needles still in wrappers. 
Volunteers of from the Working Towards a Cleaner Cambridge group say this was the most amount of needles they have discovered during a clean up. (Facebook: Working Towards a Cleaner Cambridge)

Brown said she notified the city about the camps because the amount of garbage was too large for the group to handle. 

"It's going to take trucks to bring out the bigger stuff," she said. "To lug all that stuff back into a vehicle, out of that rail, it will take days."

Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig said city crews cleaned up the sites Tuesday night. 


"There might be other sites somewhere along the trail, outside the city of Cambridge, that we're not aware of, but the ones that have been reported to us, have been cleaned-up," he said.   

Alicia Brown said some of the needles volunteers found were still unused and wrapped in plastic bags. (Facebook: Working Towards a Cleaner Cambridge )

On private property

Craig said if similar camps are on property, the city's hands are tied.

"We need to get permission," Craig said. "There's nothing we can do about this if they tell us we can't go on private property." 

Based on the items found that reeked of "mould and mildew," Brown said she thinks the biggest camp might have been there throughout the winter months. 

"It appears to have been abandoned for quite some time," she said. 

The mayor said he has been aware of this problem at least since last fall. 

"There's been different camps," he said.

"We've been talking to the GRCA and police about this. Hopefully we can support people to come to the shelters," Craig said.  

Alicia Brown said her team found 6 containers worth of needles — two large ones and then four smaller Sharps. (Facebook: Working Toward a Cleaner Cambridge)

'They come back every year'

Craig said the city has hired "dedicated crews" to pick up discarded needles.

"From what I understand, the camps are out there frequently, they come back every year," Brown said. 

The Region of Waterloo recently voted unanimously to go ahead with the next steps for a supervised injection site in April, but the location of where the sites are still unknown and debated between Cambridge and Kitchener. 

"Places like that are not in the vision or core areas of Cambridge," said Craig. 

"I don't think you can just simply suggest that because there are tents going up or areas where people are settling, that it has an indication in terms of a safe injection site," he said.