After discovering squatter in his garage, West End homeowner makes her dinner

The first sign strangers had moved into Patrick Michalishyn's garage was a shower curtain, strung up where his garage door normally hangs.

'I don't want them to get hassled; I want them to get help,' he says

A small group of squatters moved into Patrick Michalishyn's garage in the West End of Winnipeg. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The first sign strangers had moved into Patrick Michalishyn's garage was a shower curtain, strung up where his garage door normally hangs.

The 31-year-old came home Wednesday afternoon to find a woman and her belongings inside.

He'd left the door to the garage on his West End property open for house guests who needed a place to park.

The rusty, steel-frame garage ended up becoming shelter for a slight, 26-year-old woman during Wednesday's heavy rainstorm.

"She said that she had just gotten out of the hospital and needed a place to stay. I wasn't going to send her out into the rain," Michalishyn said.

So he made her dinner — a grilled cheese sandwich and a hot bowl of soup. He then spent the following hour on the phone, calling shelters and non-profits, asking for help.

"They pointed the finger and passed the buck to other places," he said.

Why Michalishyn let the squatters stay and what his garage looks like now:

Patrick Michalishyn said he was unwilling to call police after squatters moved into his garage Wednesday because he wants the woman and her friends to get help, not get hassled. 1:02

Unable to find a spot in a shelter, he let her spend the night. The next morning two men joined her as well as some bunk beds and beer.

When CBC arrived late Thursday afternoon, the woman was using a small bunch of plastic ornamental leaves to sweep the dust and cobwebs away from the floor and walls of the garage.

The bunk beds had disappeared but the garage still housed a futon, milk crates, a bicycle and shopping carts packed with luggage and clothing. Toward the back, a small silver platter hung on the wall, serving as a mirror.

The woman declined to be interviewed but told CBC she was not a part of the tent city outside All Saints' Anglican Church dismantled earlier this week. She said prefers to camp outside or sleep in stairwells rather than staying in homeless shelters.

Michalishyn said he's not concerned about his safety but suspects she or her friends are using hard drugs. He saw what he believes was a package of injectable drugs, possibly heroin, and CBC noted a syringe wrapper in the back lane nearby.

With some guilt, Michalishyn eventually asked the woman and her friends to leave. When that didn't work, he called Winnipeg police's non-emergency line.

City spokesperson Ken Allen said residents should call police if they see anyone squatting on their private property.

After speaking with the attending officer, Michalishyn decided against the police option. He said he worries that if police get involved, the woman would end up back in the streets in short order.

"I don't want them to get hassled; I want them to get help," he said. "She's been very very friendly."

For now, interactions are polite among all parties involved.

Michalishyn hopes the Spence Neighbourhood Association will find a more permanent home for the group.

Along with shopping carts, the group moved in a futon, mirror, a bicycle and other personal items in to the garage. (Walther Bernal/CBC)