Dismantling of Victor Drive Encampment
Posted on 07/19/2023

For Immediate Release 

St. Thomas, ON (July 19th, 2023)

The City of St. Thomas, members of City Council and the St. Thomas Police Service remains committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all citizens in our community.

In the early morning hours of July 18th, the STPS officers responded to a violent assault that occurred at a known homeless encampment that had taken root on a vacant piece of private property over the past several weeks.  One adult male was violently assaulted with the use of weapons while staying at this encampment.  This male was transported to hospital and is currently in stable condition.  STPS frontline personnel secured the crime scene and investigative teams attended.  This violent crime occurrence remains under investigation at this time.

“Homelessness and precarious housing continue to impact people and create both challenging and complex situations that need to be addressed.  The City works diligently and in partnership with all stakeholders in the community to provide options and supports to all, including those most vulnerable.  As best as possible, the City has and will take continued action to ensure the safety and well-being of all of its residents and the security of both public and private property.”  Mayor Joe Preston, City of St. Thomas.

Regardless of how our local marginalized population ends up homeless, people deserve to be treated with dignity and understanding.  As a result, this morning, the City, with support from other community services, took action to dismantle an unsanctioned fortified structure on a private property.  This site was being used as an encampment and was the scene of the July 18th violent assault.  A number of health and public safety concerns were noted at this encampment.

Encampments of those experiencing homelessness and substance use disorders have become a fixture in cities of all sizes.  While it is understood that people who are unsheltered seek out and create encampments for a number of complex reasons –  local infrastructure, walking trails, and parks are investments provided to be enjoyed by all residents without fears of becoming a victim of crime.  In recent weeks, encampments throughout the City have prevented the public from using certain spaces.  Countless residents have contacted the City and the STPS looking for answers and a response to this growing trend.  The STPS and City have deployed a number of strategies surrounding the increase in encampments in our community.

“We have established important community partnerships.  Through these collaborative efforts, we actively seek and create housing options that provide support to those most in need.  Individuals impacted by today’s activities have been offered and received assistance and support.  We know that affordable and supportive housing is the solution to ending homelessness and we will continue our efforts to reach that goal in St. Thomas.”  Heather Sheridan, Director of St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services.

“Encampments can be unsafe and dangerous places and that is precisely what was located this morning on Victor Drive.  A compassionate approach was deployed to remove and relocate those individuals that were living at this location.  This site offered zero opportunity for moving out of homelessness.  Officers recovered stolen property at the encampment site which is very concerning and will be investigated to link rightful owners to their property.  As a collective, we are committed to ensuring community safety and well-being for all residents, holding accountable those that choose to commit crimes, and support and connect to healthy pathways those that choose encampments to live”.  Chief Marc Roskamp, St. Thomas Police Service.