By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Neighbourhoods in south Oshawa are “under siege” with incidents of theft, according to a local ward councillor.
Ward 5 regional councillor Brian Nicholson said residents are having items taken from their backyards, and even electricity stolen from them by way of extension chords plugged into outside outlets.
According to Nicholson, these actions are those of certain members of a local “tent city” in the vicinity of the Oshawa Creek.
“It’s been an ongoing and constant problem,” Nicholson told The Oshawa Express.
City council unanimously supported a motion to hold a public meeting to address the issue.
Nicholson said he isn’t looking to point a finger at Oshawa’s entire homeless population.
“The vast majority of those who are homeless are respectful of our communities, and do their best to deal with their living situation in a positive way,” Nicholson said.
However, the thefts are growing, as Nicholson notes hundreds of propane tanks have gone missing in the last few months.
“It’s open season on the nearby property owners,” he said.
The situation has left some residents “intimidated,” and unwilling to use the nearby trail system, he adds.
Also, if a fire somehow broke out near the tent city, Nicholson is unsure whether fire vehicles would be able to reach the area.
To Nicholson, the issue must be addressed not just through enforcement, but conversation.
“We can’t just look at it from one angle. You can’t just go down and arrest them all,” he said.
The city can’t solve the problem by itself, he adds.
“We can’t expect one municipality or organization to solve this problem, it will need ‘all hands on deck,’” Nicholson said.
Mayor Dan Carter said the city has 15 programs already in place to address homelessness, and budgeted $200,000 this year for the Oshawa Unsheltered Residents (O.U.R.) program.
He said any perception the city isn’t addressing homelessness is incorrect.
“It was the City of Oshawa that convinced 28 members [of regional council] to get the Primary Care Outreach Program out there,” Carter said.
But the mayor concedes more needs to be done, and he hopes to see council chambers packed for the public meeting.
“I’m hoping that this motion engages all of us to utilize every resource we have to bring every person to the table with good ideas, ‘sweat equity,’ dollars, and compassion and kindness in their heart to get this done,” he said.
“It sickens me every night that I have to think about this, and I wish I had the solution, because I don’t,” Carter added.
Ward 1 city councillor Rosemary McConkey worried the meeting could be focusing too much on the negative side.
However, Nicholson and his Ward 5 colleague John Gray said the problems couldn’t be overlooked.
“I didn’t know thefts were a positive thing, they are a very negative thing,” Gray said, while Nicholson believes the negativity of the situation can’t simply be “whitewashed.”
The date of the public meeting has yet to be determined.