Advertisement

Standing room only at public meeting to solve 'dumpster fire' around Downtown Mission

Nick Amlin addresses the crowd at the townhall on about the Downtown Mission Tuesday. (Dale Molenar/CBC - image credit)
Nick Amlin addresses the crowd at the townhall on about the Downtown Mission Tuesday. (Dale Molenar/CBC - image credit)

Coun. Renaldo Agostino held a public meeting Tuesday evening to address complaints about crime, litter and public intoxication from neighbours of the Downtown Mission of Windsor.

Agostino has called the situation a "dumpster fire," and said it's time for the city and the Downtown Mission to work together to solve the problem.

Homeowner Nick Amlin has lived near the 875 Ouellette Ave. facility since February 2022 and said "everything went downhill" when the Mission consolidated its services there.

"Almost every day, [you see] people in different states of mental health and substance abuse psychosis," he said.

"What else? The garbage, which has been an ongoing issue. Nothing is ever cleaned up on Mission property, and then the weather just takes it over our way.  The whole neighbourhood's cleaning trash a couple of times a week."

TJ Dhir/CBC
TJ Dhir/CBC

Amlin was among more than 100 people who attended the standing room only meeting held in the lobby of city hall from 6 p.m. to about 7:30 p.m

After the meeting, he said he was "cautiously hopeful" some solutions could be found.

Mission executive director Rukshini Ponniah-Goulin said in the short term, better lighting, fencing and possibly garbage bins could help.

"This was a good opportunity to get some feedback from the neighbours, the community members and also our Coun. Renaldo Agostino to start the process of what can we do," said Ponniah-Goulin.

Agostino added, "What's going to happen real quickly is I'm going to report to my fellow councillors and let them know how tonight went. I'm going to report to the mayor and let him know how tonight went and really start spreading the word that there's solutions out there."

Nothing is ever cleaned up on Mission property, and then the weather just takes it over our way.   The whole neighbourhood's cleaning trash a couple of times a week. - Nick Amlin

The Mission previously served meals at 664 Victoria Ave., while the Ouellette facility was primarily used as its shelter and wellness centre. The organization moved its food bank to Ouellette last summer.

The Mission has a security team inside the facility and two city-funded guards on site, all of whom respond to requests for help from the community, according to Ponniah-Goulin, who added that once neighbours complain to them, it's up to mission staff to deal with the issue.

Asked what additional steps it might take to address neighbours' complaints, she said the answer comes down to funding.

"We are primarily operating based on donations of the community," Ponniah-Goulin said.

"The community itself that we're serving is struggling currently because of, obviously, the state of the economy with prices going up for food, for gas, everything like that, right? … And many of them are actually coming to our food bank, which is why our lineup at the food bank is also larger now than it's ever been before."

The Mission will need the community's help to address the problems neighbours are complaining about, she said.

TJ Dhir/CBC
TJ Dhir/CBC

Meighen Pindus, who uses the Mission's services, said she believes the patrons themselves need to contribute to the solution by showing more respect and gratitude for the work of the organization, even though they are stressed, and it's "absolutely brutal" having to line up in the cold for hours for services.

But Pindus added the people causing the problems are in the minority.

"It's just a small group of people who aren't getting the proper help that they need, like mental health services and drug addiction services, that are causing the problem for everyone, which is causing everyone else and [those] who really do need the services to lose out."

The ultimate solution will be to move the mission to a permanent location, but Ponniah-Goulin said it will take fundraising to make that happen. First, the hub needs a new location.

Submissions for proposals on the location were due last month. It's not clear when city council will deal with the matter.