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Homeless camp leaves Kingston business owner frustrated

Click to play video: 'Homeless squatter leaves business owner frustrated'
Homeless squatter leaves business owner frustrated
WATCH: A man with no where else to go set up camp beside a Kingston business, leaving the owner frustrated – Sep 20, 2019

After a homeless man set up camp beside his business, Randy Casford says a lack of support for Kingston’s most vulnerable population is taking a toll on him and his family.

“We’re working our butt off for a safe place to live and that’s the last thing I feel right now,” Casford told Global News.

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Squatters set up on the property Monday, and although police and the city’s street outreach program arrived on Friday to force them out, Casford worries they will come back.

“We have pictures of them shooting up, they have a loose dog – a pitbull – they have bats, they have alcohol and they’ve actually plugged into my apartment to run a TV and it’s frustrating because I’ve been after them since Monday.”

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According to Casford, police had come periodically throughout the week to tell the squatters to leave, but no one had forced them to vacate the property until Friday.

Casford says there has been back-and-forth between the city and Kingston police about whether the property is city-owned or privately owned and he’s frustrated that it’s taking so long to clear out the space. On Friday, Kingston bylaw determined the property was privately owned, so Kingston police were able to take action. Police officers on the scene would not comment, and several requests for further comment made to the media officer and to the chief were left unanswered.

Despite his frustration, Casford says the root of the problem is the lack of help available for people experiencing homelessness.

“We’re a reactive society, not a proactive society,” Casford says.

WATCH (June 18, 2019): Parliamentary budget officer says increased resources will help reduce homelessness 

Click to play video: 'Parliamentary Budget Officer says increased resources will help reduce homelessness by 50 per cent'
Parliamentary Budget Officer says increased resources will help reduce homelessness by 50 per cent

Eric Cook, the man who set up the camp, says he was kicked out of his apartment and had nowhere else to go.

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He brought all the contents from his apartment to a treed area between Montreal and Bagot streets, beside the Kingston Boxing Club and Sonny’s Automotive.

“It’s more hectic than anything. Stressful. Stress is one thing … it always switches it up from good to bad,” Cook said as he piled up his things under police supervision.

Despite many attempts by police to get Cook to move, he’d been staying put while he tried to figure out what his next step is, he said.

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Street Outreach co-ordinator Aiden Dorosz said they are trying to help.

“Individuals sometimes don’t necessarily want to come into the shelter for various reasons. It’s just a struggle, but we’re very fortunate to have really great case managers in both the shelter and through the housing-first and supportive housing programs that house a ton of people.”

Dorosz says Kingston’s low vacancy rate makes finding housing difficult but his team has managed to house three individuals already this month.

Street Outreach will be supporting Cook as he finds a spot to store his belongings, while also helping him navigate the services in the city available to him.

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“I always tell people you don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s important to get the full story before we pass judgement onto others,” Dorosz said.

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