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Dealing with transients, drug addicts a daily struggle for new homeowners

The Mathieu's home neighbours the Rivers Trail which has become a common hangout spot for some drug users.
September 06, 2017 - 8:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - When people complain about transients and drug users in their neighbourhood, they are often accused being NIMBYs — Not In My Backyard. But for Sarah Mathieu’s family the problems are literally in their backyard.

In the five months since they moved into their Royal Avenue home on the North Shore, they’ve had to deal with trespassers, stolen property, the attempted theft of their dock, discarded drug needles and arson.

"I wish I could say I love my new home,” Mathieu says. “But I can’t.”

From the moment they took possession in March, they have had to battle to reclaim their property.

Their waterfront property borders the Rivers Trail and that seems to bring strangers onto their property. A neighbour informed them early on that people were hanging out on their deck before a pickup truck showed up and they carted off all the patio furniture.

The couple had moved out and rented a property nearby to make way for construction workers to remodel the home. They left their old RV on the property and that was quickly inhabited by squatters.

"It was a couple and they got so comfortable the girl left him a note that said 'hey baby, too hot in the trailer I'll meet you down by the dock'," she says. "And they had the dock all set up for themselves. They were living here."

The couple appeared to have abandoned the RV after they were discovered. Inside, Mathieu found a box containing their drugs and discarded needles.

Mathieu was fed up at this point so she along with her father visiting from out of town reached out to the RCMP, Kamloops Bylaw Department and City Hall. The result was parks workers came to her place to trim some trees and shrubs that drug users had been using to stay hidden and the Mounties increased patrols of the area.

But the issues didn't stop.

The couple's home nearly burned down when someone broke into the home and started the microwave with metal inside.
The couple's home nearly burned down when someone broke into the home and started the microwave with metal inside.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Sarah Mathieu

Their dock was a party spot for eight people one day and it appeared they were trying to cut it loose. Another time in August, the home caught fire. Someone broke into the home and put something metal in the microwave.

“Luckily it didn't burn to the ground, and luckily our addition wasn't damaged, and most of all we are lucky no one was hurt,” she said.

They’ve also had rocks thrown through windows, needles scattered through the yard and stolen property dumped out back.

Earlier this week, after calling and e-mailing the city and getting no results, Mathieu took to social media and calling on the city to do something about the trails and the North Shore in general.

Going online finally got her some results and she is now scheduled to meet with representatives from the city about what to do next.

Meanwhile her story has caught the attention of Interim Mayor Arjun Singh and he has reached out to her to offer his sympathy and assistance.

"I really feel for that family in a very, very big way and it's something that nobody ever wants to see in Kamloops or anywhere else," he says. "I've been on the phone and e-mailing various people within City Hall and we are certainly interested in the opportunity to come visit and see what we can do."

Singh says meetings between city staff and community stakeholders are happening daily and work is constantly being done to figure out what is causing the rise in this kind of activity and what can be done to battle it.

"We are very alive to the fact that something has tweaked the last few months that's causing a spike in addiction related behaviour," he says. "We've got things that we are doing like putting out more sharps containers in public parks, we've amped up some of our by-law patrols, the RCMP is aware, and ASK Wellness is doing needle disposal. We'll see if that actually tamps it down or if we have to do more."

While Mathieu's method of using social media is not recommended for reporting these kinds of issues it is the only way she feels she has been able to get peoples attention. Even so, Singh recommends contacting the city if you are having similar issues. He also says you can call his direct line at 250-320-6532.

"I am always happy to hear from folks about issues they have like that."

This message is scribbled on part of the beach that neighbours Sarah Mathieu's home. Transients will use drugs here just a few feet from her property.
This message is scribbled on part of the beach that neighbours Sarah Mathieu's home. Transients will use drugs here just a few feet from her property.

For more information on the opioid crisis in B.C., go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Mike McDonald or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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