Osborne Village experiencing a ‘homeless takeover’

Officers watch a squatter pack up belongings after booting him out of the TD Bank on Osborne Street. Timm Bruch / Global News

Osborne Village is dealing with a serious homelessness issue, and it has residents and businesses on edge.

A recently vacated TD Bank on Osborne Street that houses squatters — with a working ATM still used inside — is just one example showing a growing number of homeless people in the neighbourhood.

The people sleeping in it are told to clear out of the bank almost every day by police, but Osborne Village BIZ says they’re just moving their belongings to another problem area.

READ MORE: Osborne Village going through growing pains, not decline: residents

BIZ’s Stephanie Meilleur says she’s reaching her breaking point.

“It’s bigger than it’s ever been,” Meilleur said. “People live down here, people work down here, people are trying to own businesses down here, and we’re exhausted.”

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One of the people who spent the night in the vacated TD Bank told Global News he’s stayed there at least 25 times.

“If we keep it clean in there and clean up when we leave, it shouldn’t be a big deal,” Tyree Cayer said.

Cayer said he does his best to keep the space tidy, but with dozens more camping out at various spots in the area, businesses have further concerns.

READ MORE: Change of landscape coming to Winnipeg’s Osborne Village

The owner of a chiropractic clinic, which is next door to the TD Bank, says he’s had dozens of windows and doors broken by vandals.

“It’s cause for concern because it starts to effect our business,” said Dr. Brian McWhirter.

“[A client] had gone in [the bank next door] to use the cash machine prior to treatment and she couldn’t because there was people sleeping in there,” Dr. McWhirter said. “If somebody felt that way, you kind of wonder what they felt after they left their appointment.”
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Numbers show that September has been an especially busy month for the people who work to help homeless in the area.

Oak Table, an organization that serves daily meals out of an Osborne church, has seen a big increase in mouths to feed. They say they’ve served 700 meals more this year than they had by September in 2016. The average number of people they’re serving daily is also going up: from 125 people a day in 2016, to more than 200 people on Monday alone.

Police say they’re looking at options to curb squatting, chalking up the problem to a long summer and Osborne’s desirable location.

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