Neighbours outraged after woman offers backyard to homeless following incident at Street Help

A Windsor woman has offered her backyard up to homeless people following a dispute at Street Help where Windsor police officers allegedly told people to move their carts from a nearby alley or public works would dispose their belongings.

Safety concerns have prompted neighbours to issue multiple calls to police

“They have been incredibly respectful, appreciative, thankful. I have a lot of people in the larger Windsor community bring by food and hygiene products and wanting to help out however they could," said Kim McKintosh after inviting homeless to stay in her backyard. (Submitted by Kim McKintosh)

A Windsor woman has offered her backyard up to homeless people following a dispute at Street Help—​ after Windsor police officers allegedly told people to move their carts from a nearby alley and private parking lot or public works would dispose of their belongings.

The incident was posted to Street Help's social media page Friday afternoon which immediately triggered Kim McKintosh to do something.

"The original intent was just to have a safe space so they could have somewhere they could keep their possessions … everything they own are in these carts," said McKintosh.

A group of about 10 homeless people proceeded to pitch tents and leave their carts on her property. McKintosh said the people, who she has now come to know by name, could not have been nicer.

"They mowed the lawn, they pulled the weeds, they pruned the bushes, my backyard has not looked this good in years," she said.

McKintosh says the homeless people staying in her backyard have been nothing but nice. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Neighbours concerned for safety

However, her actions have been criticized by fellow neighbours. Two of them have called the police on McKintosh, citing safety and security concerns for the neighbourhood.

"There is an old saying about not defecating where you eat and I think this is a really good example of that," said Bob Stewart who lives across the street on Moy Avenue.

Stewart said he has been watching the decline of the neighbourhood for the past 18 years.

"There are lots of ways to help people that are less fortunate, people who are homeless, people who are addicted. Inviting them into a residential neighbourhood en masse in a single evening and setting up a tent city in your backyard isn't one of them," Stewart said.

Erica Chan lives down the street. She said she's a single mother to a little boy and is nervous about the homeless staying in her neighbour's backyard.

"My concern is all the drug addicts she has now invited into the neighbourhood," Chan said. "There are much better and safer ways to do this … A whole neighbourhood should not have to be jeopardized in order to help these people."

Erica Chan lives across the street and believes there are better ways to help the homeless. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

McKintosh admits, if she could do things differently, she would have liked to inform her neighbours but the urgency of the matter forced her to act quickly.

McKintosh said the police have told her the homeless need to be out of her backyard by Monday or she might face bylaw charges – orders she said she will obey.

However, she doesn't want to see the homeless stripped of their belongings.

"I think that everybody is one mishap, one pay cheque away from homelessness … I think we are supposed to help our fellow human beings."

Police to schedule community meeting

Police are scheduling a meeting with Street Help, city officials and neighbours involved to educate everyone on how to best help those in need, citing "tremendous" assets which are available for struggling individuals in Windsor.

"What it sounds like here is we need a community approach to this neighbourhood issue," said Sgt. Steve Betteridge.

"We are moving forward with community partners to have a game plan that can assist everyone."