City taking note of shelter complaints at former Stuart Wood school

By Vanessa Ybarra
November 22, 2017 - 6:23pm Updated: November 22, 2017 - 7:03pm

KAMLOOPS — Since the start of this month Stuart Wood Elementary has been operating as a homeless shelter for the city's less fortunate.

While the space is a safe place for people to escape the cold, parents and daycare workers say the school grounds have become increasingly unsafe due to needles , feces, and sleeping on the grounds after the shelter has closed in the morning.

The city and Canadian Mental Health Association says it's taking steps to address the problem.

An informal meeting involving a daycare provider, parents and Canadian Mental Health took place outside Stuart Wood Elementary Wednesday morning, which for the past three weeks has been operating as a cold weather shelter. 

It's especially troubling for daycare providers whose kids use the playground.

"There have been a couple situations with people going down from drug issues, an overdose happened while the kids were coming from school," said Patti Pernitsky, with Kamloops United Church Preschool.

"In the last three weeks we've noticed an increase in things like human feces and more needle activity."

Parents like Katrin Dietrich, whose daughter is one of dozens who use the nearby bus stop every morning to get to Beattie Elementary, are also concerned.

"We are the first ones here in the morning at around 7:50 a.m.," said Dietrich. "In the last few weeks we've witnessed people sleeping underneath the playground, just hanging out. I won't let Emily play here any more."

"This is a brand new program and brand new location for us so everyday has been an adventure in terms of figuring out what we need to do in terms of  logistics and working with our community members," said the Kamloops Canadian Mental Health Association Executive Director Christa Mullaly.

She says cameras and lighting are being installed to create a safer environment.

They've also stepped up enforcement, with members picking up used needles and other items as often as possible.

"I come here randomly. Sometimes I'll be here late at night or early in the morning. It doesn't matter if it's a Tuesday or Saturday, we're committed to making it work in the community."

On Tuesday the issue was brought up at the city council meeting.

Mayor Ken Christian agreed to step up patrol in the area.

"We've dispatched bylaw services, parks and recreation crew to look at the grounds and we've been consulting with the Canadian Mental Health Association who operates the facility to make sure the kinds of behaviours we're seeing are going to stop."

Neighbourhood members CFJC News spoke to say they maintain the shelter is a good thing for the community.

For them it's about ensuring the playground is safe for children.

"When I arrive at 7:30 a.m. I want to see no homeless people here and the ground sweeped," said Dietrich. "If the kids could come and run for the next ten or 15 minutes that would be amazing."

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