Peterborough Examiner: Bus stop turned into shelter for homeless should be removed, says worker at Market Plaza in Peterborough

Peterborough Examiner
Credit: Peterborough Examiner

To mark World News Day on September 28, 2022, the World News Day campaign is sharing stories that have had a significant social impact. This particular story, which was shared by the Peterborough Examinercc, was first published on August 12, 2022.

City has cleared out shelter and says it works empathetically to find emergency shelter, housing services for occupants.

Julie Derrett, who works at the Market Plaza on George Street in Peterborough, wants city council to remove the nearby bus stop shelter, saying it’s regularly being taken over by homeless people.

“The police have been pretty good. But it’s frustrating all the way around, because the police are being told to pass it on to transit, and transit is telling us to call the police,” Derrett said.

Many times she’s witnessed people using drugs and defecating directly in front of the business she works at, she said.

“It’s a festival day, four o’clock in the afternoon, and our street is packed full of tourists,” said Derrett. “And there’s five people in that shelter, all smoking crack.”

Derrett also says that the bus station becomes littered with blankets, garbage and drug paraphernalia. Customers have told her they no longer feel safe parking near the location.

“They’re making it like a house. They put a big piece of plywood in front of the doorway at nighttime. Basically saying, stay the heck out of here, this is our space,” Derrett said.

This has led to the bus shelter no longer being used as intended, she said, and that even when it is cleared out, the fix is only temporary.

“The only solution that I see is to remove the shelter, because it has never been used for what it was erected to be used for,” Derrett said. “And no one in their right mind would walk in there.”

Brendan Wedley, the city’s manager of communication services, said the bus shelter has been recently cleared out again and all items removed. The city has a process in place to deal with such situations, he said.

“When a report is received, trained outreach staff from Social Services engage with those individuals to assess their circumstances and work with them to find appropriate options such as emergency shelter and supportive housing services,” Wedley stated in an email.

“If an empathetic and understanding approach is not successful in the person vacating the bus shelter, then the city will engage its bylaw officers and police.”

Removing the shelter will not eliminate the issue of homelessness, Wedley said, adding the city is actively working to assist those in need find permanent housing.

“In 2021, 251 people exited homelessness and secured housing — 35 per cent were people who had experienced chronic homelessness. So far in 2022, about 100 people have moved into housing from homelessness,” he stated.

The Examiner also reached out to Mayor Diane Therrien for comment but did not receive a response.