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'It continues to grow as a waste site': Neighbours frustrated with mess at Bathurst Drive encampment

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People in the Bathurst Drive area of north Waterloo say they’ve had enough with a massive pile of garbage at an encampment site located in the green space behind an office park.

“Over the years it turned into what you see now, it looks more like a, impromptu landfill site,” said Jim Hishon, who works nearby.

According to Hishon, one individual has been living at the site for the past four to five years. The City of Waterloo confirmed they have been working with an individual at that location for a number of years.

Hishon said the problem isn’t someone looking for shelter, but the constant mess.

”If it was someone that was just seeking shelter? That’s completely reasonable, but when that starts disrupting business and the environment and public access, not to mention the financial burden of cleaning up a site like this, that's when it becomes a bigger issue, in my opinion,” said Hishon.

Doreen Armstrong and Jim Hishon in front of the Waterloo encampment on February 27, 2024. (CTV News/Jeff Pickel)

Those who work in the area said they are concerned about the impact on the environment and water quality.

“They’re breaking things apart, like batteries, like e-waste. You'll see propane tanks. You'll see all kinds of paint, spray cans, flammable goods,” said Doreen Armstrong, who also works nearby.

Residents said City of Waterloo is on site frequently and do regular cleanups, but they are looking for a more permanent solution.

“There's been zero stewardship for the area. It just continues to grow as a waste site and we really don't see a concerted effort to stay on top of it,” said Hishon.

The City of Waterloo acknowledged the issue and said they are working on a solution.

“As a municipality we are working on ensuring that he is safe ,we certainly are trying to find him more suitable housing at this point because that is not an ideal location for him,” said Nicole Papke, director of municipal enforcement services for the City of Waterloo.

Papke said they hope to be able to do a clean-up soon but there have been challenges.

An aerial shot of the Waterloo encampment. (Submitted)

“We aren't able to clean up as easily because it's challenging to get trucks back to that site when the ground is soft, so typically in the spring, we begin a more regular weekly cleanup of that site,” said Papke.

The City acknowledged that the clean-up comes at a cost but could not provide an estimate of how much it costs.

As for removing the individual from the area, Papke said legally they are not in a position to do that.

“I think the courts have made it clear that those that are precariously housed need to be connected with suitable housing as opposed to just being evicted from public land,” saiid Papke.

Papke is referring, in part, to a ruling from a Kitchener court that blocked the eviction of residents from the encampment at Victoria and Weber Street.

For now, the city said it will work with the Region of Waterloo to find a housing solution and to keep the area clean.

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