Residents and people using an open parking area in Woodstock have complained about intimidation from some homeless people who have occupied the space to make small shelters.
The parking area in Douglas Place is located off Victoria Road and runs past Calvin Street towards a cul-de-sac parking area which is surrounded by houses.
Next to the parking area is an open field which has previously been occupied by the homeless before it was fenced off by ward councillor Dave Bryant last year.
After it was fenced, however, it created new problems with the homeless building makeshift shelters in the Douglas Place parking area.
The small shelters are set up on the small grass banks in front of the residents’ properties.
Woodstock Community Policing Forum(CPF) chairperson, Youssef Kanouni, said whenever he passes the parking area he sees a group of people who are drinking in the area. “Even the residents and surrounding businesses are complaining about the parking area,” he said.
When the Tatler visited the area last Monday, February 3, it was littered with alcohol bottles, and rubbish, and the nearby trees had been used as a toilet.
A resident, who did not want her name mentioned fearing reprisals, said it was sad how the area had deteriorated. “When we moved here 30 years ago it was a pleasure to live here though now it’s so sad to see all these street people sleeping outside here,” she said.
She said they smoked and made the residents feel unsafe in the area. “They throw their dirt everywhere and just relieve themselves anywhere and it does not smell very hygienic,” she says.
There are various restaurants and retail stores nearby whose patrons use that parking area. The Tatler approached a restaurant and nearby retail store who prefered not to comment on the matter.
Mr Kanouni said the people in the area were affected by this group’s behaviour. “When they get drunk, they use foul language and the parking area becomes an unhealthy site,” he said.
Mr Kanouni recommended that the lot be fenced off and used as a parking area to prevent the homeless from taking over the area.
Chris Lloyd, manager of the Woodstock Improvement District (WID), said his team had spent a lot of time cleaning up after the homeless and at times had even been threatened. “Law enforcement has done a number of operations but the problem still persists,” he said.
Johnson Teka, 54, is one of the homeless people who stay in the area and is also the car guard for the parking area. He said that he had been living on the streets for 10 years and lived with eight people in the makeshift tents in Douglas Place. “ It is very difficult conditions though we try to get along with each other,” he said.
Mr Bryant said the City’s social development teams had visited the area on previous occasions to offer assistance but this had been repeatedly rejected in most instances. “Our City law enforcement teams have assisted on numerous previous occasions to address residents’ complaints relating to reported by-law offences and City cleansing and parks teams have attended when requested,” he said.
Sohco housing CEO Heather Maxwell, confirmed they concluded a deed of sale for the Douglas Place and Pine Road sites with the City last November.
“The Douglas Place site is still subject to a rezoning process which the City is handling directly,” she said.
The City’s law enforcement spokesperson, Wayne Dyason, said his department would look into the matter and arrange for a clean-up operation at the parking area in Douglas Place, Woodstock, early next week.
Residents can report any littering and anti-social behaviour by calling law enforcement on 021 480 7700 from a cellphone and 107 from a landline.