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Those near Timmins homeless shelter say it’s causing fear, insecurity

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As an independent review of the Living Space homeless shelter in Timmins comes to a close, some residents and business owners say not enough attention has been paid to the impacts of some of its clients are having on the surrounding area.

Feelings of fear and insecurity are high, residents said, and there’s a sense that efforts to improve crime and safety are not as effective as they hoped.

In the more than two years since Living Space moved to its current location, Andre Gagnon said there hasn’t been a day he’s felt safe.

“We’ve been dealing with overdoses, thefts,” Gagnon said.

“They’re yelling, they’re walking down the street doing their drugs. They’re breaking into houses, they’re defecating everywhere.”

He said someone he assumed was a shelter client accosted his staff that same morning. Gagnon lives in the area, as well, and said there’s not enough of a police and outreach presence.

As an independent review of the Living Space homeless shelter in Timmins comes to a close, some residents and business owners say not enough attention has been paid to the impacts of some of its clients are having on the surrounding area. Feb. 22/24 (Photo from video)

Some clients attend the city-funded safe consumption site near the shelter’s old location, which a business owner said hasn’t been safe there since 2018.

“Break-ins, fires, stolen wires,” said Chris Lamarche.

“We spent about $40,000 in damage repairs to our building because of what’s going on around there. This is right beside city hall.”

Lamarche and Gagnon are two of many who said their concerns are not being properly addressed by city officials and service providers.

'Residents have been victimized'

City Coun. Bill Gvozdanovic agreed and said more needs to be done.

“The first step, in terms of healing, is to identify that the residents have been victimized,” Gvozdanovic said.

“The fact that residents in this area and other areas of town have had their lives turned upside down. The way we’re going to solve this is as a community.”

Gvozdanovic said he wants to see stricter penalties for trespassers and vandals and will support an upcoming motion for a vacant building registry.

He also wants to see more outreach workers on the streets. One downtown business owner said that’s been particularly effective.

“I feel that they’re doing a very good job to try to keep our downtown safe, as well as looking out for the less fortunate people in our community,” said Sonya Biemann, downtown business owner.

But Biemann said that’s not the case for all of the city’s efforts, adding that the city is still dealing with unacceptable levels of crime and open drug use.

Timmins police told CTV it is focusing resources more heavily on hot spot areas, including with its mobile crisis team.

“To me, it’s still not helping,” Biemann said.

“It’s not helping enough. I don’t know how they plan on making it better.”

“There’s no solutions until the politicians get it together,” Gagnon added.

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