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Pleasant Hill volunteers clean up around boarded-up houses

Volunteers clean up near Pleasant Hill boarded houses
WATCH: Volunteers in Saskatoon's pleasant hill neighbourhood participated in their bi-annual community clean up.

A dozen volunteers gathered on Saturday morning to clean up the Pleasant Hill neighbourhood.

Pickup trucks full of debris pull up to two large garbage bins, where they are unloaded.

“Every year it gets worse. It started off with finding bladed weapons around and now we’ve had people before that have found firearms,” said Shane Partridge, the Pleasant Hill Community Association safety co-ordinator.

READ MORE: Standoff in Saskatoon’s Pleasant Hill neighbourhood ends peacefully

They focus on the yards and alleyways near boarded-up houses.

“The abandoned lots are dumping grounds for shopping carts [and] mattresses. We found a lot of interesting stuff in these lots before, including weapons and sometimes drugs,” Partridge said.

The volunteers are focusing on the houses because, Partridge said, they are directly connected to the crime in the area.

“These boarded-up properties and vacant lots, they breed crime,” Patridge said.

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A record 14 homicides have occurred in Saskatoon so far in 2019 and four of them have taken place in Pleasant Hill.

Patridge, along with association president Jennifer Altenberg, voiced their concerns to the city committee on planning, development and community services in August.

The committee requested a report on the issue from the city’s administration by the start of October. A spokesperson for the city told Global News on Oct. 15 that the report wasn’t finished.

READ MORE: Pleasant Hill residents hoping to leave after violence in neighbourhood

At the committee’s meeting on Monday, Hillary Gough, the councillor for Ward 2 which includes Pleasant Hill, said the boarded-up houses are a concerning issue.

“There are a significant number of boarded-up houses in a variety of neighbourhoods and they are more than the police has open files on,” she told Global News.

Gough said one of the likely solutions may be a limit on how long houses are allowed to be boarded up, which would force landlords to take care of abandoned properties.

“Also, it would give fire department or whoever had responsibility for that bylaw [a reason to access] the property and they would have a reason to open a file on it,” Gough said.

Gough said that connecting the boarded-up houses directly to the homicides “was a bit of a stretch” but that the issue is a big problem that requires “big conversations and careful planning.”

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“The problem has been very clearly laid out and we will have ideas on solutions very soon.”

READ MORE: Saskatoon police rule suspicious death in Pleasant Hill a homicide

Partridge supports the idea but said the delay is costing the neighbourhood.

“Every month there’s young kids such as 12, 13 being arrested in drug busts with firearms.”

“Tomorrow wouldn’t be soon enough but we do understand the process and trying to get things right,” he said.

Altenberg said the collection, which has taken place in the spring and fall for the past decade, yields between five and 10 full flatbed truck containers of garbage every time.

19-year-old Kiyari McNab started working at 8 a.m.

“I grew up here and I’d rather live in a cleaning space rather than an unclean, unsafe environment,” she said.

Gough said she was expecting the report on abandoned lots before the end of the year. Until it’s released McNab will have more containers to fill.