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‘Meth camps’ showing up in city parks, says Winnipeg homeless advocate

Street Links members sort through items found at Coronation Park on Tuesday.
Street Links members sort through items found at Coronation Park on Tuesday. Marion Willis/Facebook

A local homeless advocacy group says “meth camps” are rising throughout the city and need to be dismantled as soon as they’re found.

Marion Willis of St. Boniface Street Links told 680 CJOB Thursday morning that the group’s bike patrol spotted a camp Tuesday in Coronation Park, and the people there are doing more than just meth.

“We found a picnic table turned upside down, and beside it, there was a skill saw and a whole lot of bikes … and a chop shop,” she said. “The next day, we found a shopping cart with literally hundreds of needles and a pot for cooking meth, and a blow torch.” The group also found a butcher knife, she added.

“It was everywhere in the park, it looked like a war zone in there.”

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Police were called to clean up the park and return it to its normal state, but another one will simply spring up, said Willis, saying they found other ones after the first one was cleaned up.

“It looks like a town,” she said. “You’ll see a tarp. then you’ll see that people have their personal belongings and they’re staying there … gathering together and actually doing meth together, whether it’s by injection or smoking,” she said.

“But those camps also have another purpose and they act as places where you can chop up bikes and where you can hide stolen goods. And so we’re kicking those down.”

Const. Jay Murray of the WPS said he hasn’t heard the term “meth camps” before.

“There may be a correlation between homelessness and substance addiction, but it isn’t causal. I don’t want to give the idea that every encampment is rampant with meth use or proceeds of theft.”

Police have taken down a number of encampments in the city, said Murray, and are trying to balance the needs of those in camps and property owners.

“We would like to see those living in tents and encampments seeking living accommodations that include access to washroom facilities and fresh water as well as shelter from the sun, rain, and cold,” he said.

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“We will continue to offer them resources on how they can access support services and information on alternatives to living in tents.”

Streetlinks, which is a program that works to end homelessness, reduce poverty and support crime prevention, has been struggling under the weight of the meth crisis in Winnipeg and helping those who are addicted.

READ MORE: ‘Where the hell are we supposed to go’: Winnipeg set to dismantle homeless camps

“There’s a lot of controversy right now over the City [Request for Tenders] to contract with somebody to go out and take down some of these sites,” she said.

“We need to realize that there’s a whole new face to homelessness here and it is homelessness as a consequence of a methamphetamine epidemic in this city.”

Willis is “on a mission” to stop the camps in their tracks by getting metal recyclers to stop taking bike parts, she said, and in the meantime, try to find resources for those struggling with homelessness and addiction.

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People who find an encampment on their property should call the police non-emergency line at 204-986-6222. Those who find one on city property can call 311, said Murray.