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Old East Village neighbours answer call to help elderly woman after thieves broke into home

Shirley Roberts, 79 has lived in the same rental unit in a home on Queens Avenue in London Ont. for the last 12 years. May 1, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan/Global News

Neighbours in the Old East Village (OEV) and other Londoners have stepped up to support a local senior by fixing up her house after it was broken into and her water pipes were stolen.

“It actually started off as a neighbourly chit-chat, and that’s when she was telling me about the break-ins,” neighbour Sunday-June Charity, 44, said.

Shirley Roberts, 79, has lived in the same rental unit in a home on Queens Avenue for the last 12 years.

Shirley Roberts rental home on Queens Ave. in London Ont. Old East Village was broken into and water pipes stolen. May 1, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan/Global News

Living off a pension, she says she likes the neighbourhood because it’s close to a bus stop and five minutes away from My Sisters’ Place.

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The downside she said is the people who were squatting in the backyard doing drugs. The home Roberts rents is split into two units, one in the back which faces Dundas St. and Roberts’ in the front. She said her landlord has had trouble keeping someone in the back unit for some time, and the previous tent was selling drugs.

After the previous tenant was evicted, Roberts said the people who would come to purchase the drugs would still come around and set up a camp in the backyard.

“There were a lot of needles,” Charity said.

“You definitely knew people were camping out there.”

Pile of garbage that was cleaned out from Shirley Roberts backyard on May 1, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan/Global News
Shirley Roberts backyard on Queens Ave. after volunteers cleaned it up on May 1, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan/Global News

Roberts was asleep last Saturday night when she heard a loud noise.

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“I heard the noise in the back and called out, and I heard rattling, and I knew pipes were falling,” Roberts said.

“The next thing I knew, on Sunday I had no water.”

Roberts said they took all the water pipes, leaving her temporarily without water. She said the pipes have now been replaced and water restored.

The whole situation prompted her neighbours, Sunday-June Charity and her husband, to want to help. Charity post on the Old East Village Community Facebook group about the incident.

She put a call out on Facebook for volunteers to help clean up the backyard and for other donations to help her.

On Saturday, the community answered the call in a big way — Charity said several people came out to help them clean up the backyard and also filled her front lawn with donations of furniture, clothing, and other household items, as well as food.

Donations collected for Shirley Roberts after her rental home was broken into. May 1, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan/Global News

“It shows the community strength, and that’s hard to come by, the strength and love and the unity as to how quickly everyone came together is probably one of the most amazing things,” Charity said.

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In addition to the cleanup, Charity said several landscaping companies have volunteered to help revitalize the backyard by planting flowers, a vegetable garden, and build her a better fence to help keep unwanted people out.

‘I am overwhelmed, it’s amazing. I did not expect things, I am very thankful for everything,” Roberts said.

Global News has reached out to Roberts’ landlord for comment. Currently, Roberts rents the studio-type unit for $475 a month. Organizers of the cleanup and collection for Roberts have said the landlord told them he has promised she will have a place to stay without rent increase, eviction, or sale for as long as she wants.

A GoFundMe that was set up three days ago to raise some money for Roberts has already surpassed the $1,000 goal with $14,900 Saturday afternoon.

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