I contacted the City to inquire if any inspection had taken place, with regards to the bad strip behind the gas station.
As it turned out – one had – and the City sent a letter of compliance (ie clean up that area), with a deadline of June 22. My inquiry was on June 23 – completely by coincidence. A Municipal Bylaw Inspector visited the area again and I guess did some stern talking-to to someone, as suddenly that strip was cleaned up. Well almost – they left the crushed eavestroughing and rotting wood behind. I sent photos of that to the City and that crap disappeared the very same day. By 1 p.m. on Friday June 24 that area was now clear of all debris. An inspector agreed to meet the following Monday, to discuss my other concerns with the station – namely noise and light trespass, unstable hideous fence, decrepit unused giant lighting from at least 50 years ago with bare wires sticking out of the posts, and so on.
I realized the chances of any appropriate action being taken by the station to create security and privacy for that strip were extremely slim – and would probably be done by the same guy who built the fence. I priced getting new sheets of plywood delivered – which would also need to get cut down from from 4 x 8′ to 4 x 6′. With the price of lumber skyrocketing, plus new seasonal demands this was sort of an expensive proposition. Particularly for a task that should not be my responsibility.
I found a Kijiji seller that had a large amount of pre-cut pressure treated plywood pieces in suitable sizes. They were out on a farm outside the city, in a pile. The seller took my cash and left me to pick out the pieces I wanted. I managed to find enough pieces in an odd 17 x 67″ dimension for $ 5.00/ea. Fine.
Since I would be looking at them, I primed and painted them, black of course. I was ready to put them up when the Municipal Bylaw Inspector on that file contacted me, so I held off until he could get a first hand view of the situation, from my property.
Sometime in that Friday afternoon I discovered what appeared to be a dead squirrel. I wanted to make sure it was deadDEAD before I buried it so I left it alone for a few hours.
When I went out around 6:30 p.m. it was certainly dead, stiff with bugs crawling on its eyes. But it appeared that only a few hours after that strip was cleared out that something was piled up there ! I could see the shadows under the bottom of the opaque tarp. I went over and felt sort of shocked to discover that it was a seated person, plus all their stuff in several bags. I walked away and buried the squirrel. I thought they might finish doing whatever (injecting drugs ?) and get up and leave. After my burying was done they were still there. I told them they had to go. I was even more surprised when this turned out to be a woman. I had never seen her before in the area. She was sifting through dozens of worn lottery tickets and completely ignoring me. I told her that there was a lot of criminal activity happening in that strip, and she was in a really unsafe position (ie she could be completely cornered there by a predatory dude and no one – except me – would be able to see or hear anything). I pointed out the poisonous rodent bait station. I brought her a can of Pepsi and a bus ticket – hoping some kindness would make her budge. Nope.
There is a group called London Cares that is a street outreach for homeless people in crisis. She wasn’t in crisis, or obvious crisis. But she was trespassing. I called them and spoke briefly to someone who said they would come by to have a look, when they could. I tried to emphasize how problematic this strip had become in the last few months, and the risks to her if she started sleeping there.
I also called the non-emergency police number to report this. An officer called me back perhaps an hour later. As we spoke, I could see the woman in the strip, who was apparently packing and unpacking all the bags with her, and changing clothes. I had contacted the police twice in the last 6 weeks about probably stolen items stashed back there. The officer said it was a super busy night with many, many calls, but they would swing by if they were in the area. He told me that homelessness was not a crime, and that the woman might be safer where she is than in a shelter. I agreed with him, but also emphasized that this particular location had a large amount of new sketchy activity, and how unsafe she would be if she was cornered while sleeping.
I felt off balance. I didn’t like being some snitch, and my perception was that life for homeless women was even more difficult and unsafe. What did it matter if she was there ? BUT – this strip had just been finally cleared out a few hours before. The people, mostly men, coming and going were making ME feel unsafe, particularly with iffy items getting stashed back there. A local woman started her own crusade to clean up used syringes, after she was confronted by some in her yard, a couple of blocks away. I encountered her a couple of times, and she said she had just removed three from that area a few days ago. If someone OD’d back there – and I wasn’t neurotically checking – that corpse could be there for days until anyone noticed.
I tried to ignore the woman and willed her to leave.
Close to sundown I went to the back porch to look out the window to check. Suddenly a series of bags were tossed into my yard, and the woman clambered into my yard over the short fence. I opened the door to tell her to GET OUT. Then a downpour started. She was in a panic and said that some bad men were after her. I asked her what men, where, and an incomprehensible story unreeled involving the convenience store, lottery ticket conspiracies and other things I did not understand. We stood in the downpour. Fuck !
I walked to the gate and unlatched the hook inside, then walked through my house (hoping she would not push her way inside after me) to unlock the front latch. I thought that an open gate would be a clear communication to leave. As the rain poured down she continued to search and re-search through her soaked bags. I stood on the front steps under the porch. The rain let up slightly and I walked to the front fence and saw the police pulling OUT of the parking lot next door. I waved them down. It turned out they did cruise by. They took the woman aside and asked her a bunch of questions. They walked her into the back yard, she gathered up her stuff and was sent on her way.
The police said that she actually lived just around the corner – at least she said she did – which made her campout in the strip make even less sense. I showed them the troubled area, and how the fence there was short, and that this was making my yard unsafe, previous theft attempt, stashed goods, erratic people, IV drug supplies. I said that I had a meeting with the Bylaw Inspector on Monday to address these issues.
The entire interaction was unsettling and I felt mad at myself that the painted plywood sections were propped up against the retaining wall. If they were installed this probably would have NOT happened. At least I would have been less concerned about her proximity and activities separated by opaque wood almost 6 feet tall.
The meeting with the Municipal Bylaw Inspector was anticlimactic. He agreed that the area that was just cleaned up WAS problematic, and agreed it should be blocked off and only accessible to the meter reader or other service people when needed. He seemed kind of appalled when I unscrewed a few areas that held the tarp on to show him the unconventional “construction techniques” the fence was made with. He had to admit that there really wasn’t anything in the local Fence Bylaw that addressed this whatsoever. There was also nothing in any code which could compell the gas station to put up a better (ie adequate and structurally sound) fence if they took the bad one down ! I already knew how lacking the City codes were so this wasn’t a surprise. There was also no code which required a 24 hour business with vehicular traffic next to a residence to erect a light-proof fence of any kind, even if their customer’s headlights shone in that residence’s windows. I previously knew this but I hoped that showing this example to someone in his position would make it clear what a horrible deficit in code this was.
That evening, while in the back yard, I yelled at yet another would-be pisser. He seemed really surprised to be getting yelled at – even though it would be obvious that his piss in proximity to my patio would be a problem for most sensible people. I have never observed any women go back there to pee. He claimed the convenience store wouldn’t let him use their bathroom. Since he was so brave about urination, why wasn’t he doing it by their front window to make his point ?
The very next day I attached the plywood panels, using pipe strapping to attach it to the bar at the top of the 42″chainlink fence. It wasn’t beautiful, but it was adequate. I used a bunch of mending strips to try to make the wood lay as flat as possible. A person could still peep through a corner at my yard, but it wasn’t the broad vista it had been without it.
The view, from the problematic section, from their side:
The fence as it was built in 2018. The 6′ fence was supposed to have been carried to the corner, and there was supposed to have been a gate which blocked off this area. This photo was taken in the fall of 2018. The crap dumping ground was just beginning. Obviously there was no thought given to their neighbour’s privacy or security, either.
Spring 2021, just after the attempted cart theft. The opaque tarp made not seeing their garbage an improvement, but offered no security from prying eyes:
After: My intention is that opaque plywood is an impediment to opportunistic curiosity (ie “out of sight, out of mind”). Also that this makes it a little more difficult to hop the fence into my yard, for any reason.