River Place residents move into tents after eviction deadline passes

Some River Place Residence tenants were evicted Wednesday after a deadline passed to vacate over safety concerns. Now, some are living in tents on the building's lawn.

City of Windsor has deemed apartment building unsafe for occupancy

Tenants at River Place Residence in Sandwich Town had until midnight to vacate the property, which has been deemed unsafe to live in. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

River Place Residence tenants in Windsor, Ont., were evicted Wednesday after a deadline passed to vacate the apartment building over safety concerns.

As of Wednesday afternoon, windows and doors were boarded up and tents along with residents' belongings could be seen on the lawn of the Sandwich Town building.

Tenants say they have paid rent at River Place for July, and some have run out of housing options.

"We need a place to go," said Holly McPherson.

WATCH | Former resident setting up a tent following eviction: 

Former tent city resident back in a tent following River Place eviction

CBC News Windsor

3 days ago
Robert Lyle Rockwood, a former tent-city resident, was evicted from River Place on Wednesday. He says he's back living in a tent for now. 0:27

Joyce Zuk, executive director at Family Services Windsor-Essex, calls the situation unfortunate. 

"The work that family services do, we absolutely believe that everybody should be residing in an affordable, safe place. Certainly having individuals camp out without proper washroom facilities, without potable water, is unacceptable." 

Zuk said outreach workers have been on the site for five days, speaking with individuals from the building about their options. 

"We know that residing in a shelter isn't everyone's first choice, but it is certainly a pathway to get folks into permanent housing."

Last week, the City of Windsor issued an order prohibiting occupancy at the building after inspectors deemed it unsafe. At the time, the city said agencies were working to help displaced residents and provide alternative shelter.

Michael Thiele, a lawyer representing River Place's landlord, said the city ordered that the apartment be vacated after vandalism occurred and items were stolen.  

"The owner was in contact with various city officials, councillor, support agencies, from January 2021 onwards asking for help," said Thiele in a statement. "The owner, as landlord, has no special skills to provide specialized supports and services.There was a clear problem in the building.The overnight population in the building was doubling with people being brought or simply allowed in by occupants. Attempts to control the building was met by menacing behaviour and some occupants displaying weapons."  

Thiele said the landlord has not given anyone permission to occupy the front lawns or for tents to be displayed. 

"The people occupying the property are doing so without permission. We understand that the police are supervising the area to ensure that the circumstances remain peaceful. The owner is hopeful that the city will succeed in re-housing the people there and that they will have better options than a tent on a lawn presented to them." 

Earlier this month, the city set a deadline for the landlord to fix major issues such as a lack of running water or working fire alarms. Less than 24 hours after repairs were made, however, the water had to be shut off again due to vandalism.

Windsor officers were on scene Wednesday to help clear the building, though a police service spokesperson said all tenants left on their own accord.

The building is home to some people who had been living at a ravine encampment known as tent city.

Robert Lyle Rockwood, a former encampment resident, was among those setting up a tent on River Place's front lawn on Wednesday. 

Rockwood said the situation in the building was not livable.

"They put us all in here with no support."

Dylan White, who has lived at River Place for almost three years, described the building's residents as "family."

He doesn't know where he'll end up living, but is currently with his mother.

"The landlord, they gave up on the building months ago," he said. "They didn't keep up to date, and it got destroyed, and now we're at the point where we're all homeless now."

River Place Residence, at 245 Detroit St. in Sandwich Town, was cleared and boarded up on Wednesday. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Patrick Law, one of several advocates who provided support on Wednesday to former residents, said local businesses have stepped up to donate food and a portable toilet.

Advocates have been reaching out to agencies and organizations in hopes of finding accommodations for them, he said.

"The trick is finding the right placement for each individual person, because they all have different needs."

With files from Jacob Barker