THUNDER BAY -- The problems of the city's south core can be seen through the rear window of Donna Kolcz's home.
She lives in an apartment just off Donald Street for four year. The bedroom and office room windows of that apartment look down onto George Street, the scene of a recent stabbing near the Thunder Bay Shelter House.
“I’m scared,” Kolcz said.
“A lot of people around here who are older are all afraid to go out at night. You don’t dare go out at night.”
Thunder Bay Police Service responded to a call about a stabbing on George Street just before 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Officers arrived, found a 31-year-old-man on the ground outside the Shelter House, and later found a 34-year-old-man inside the facility.
Police say both men were bleeding from stab wounds.
Kolcz said she fears that the Shelter House is being misused by people who aren’t homeless and are simply using it as a place to crash after going to the bar.
In order to increase police presence in the area, officers started patrols in near Victoriaville Mall. But Kolcz said that does nothing to give her peace of mind.
“The police cannot keep up,” she said. “The money they are spending on emergency vehicles could be going towards more police. We could have more foot patrols. We’re woken up every morning at two or 3 a.m. to yelling and screaming.”
She added that emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances are frequently seen from her apartment window.
Patty Hajdu, executive director at the Shelter House, said violent incidents like the one on Tuesday are a rare occurrence. Most of the time when emergency services are called it is for health related matters, she said.
There’s a zero tolerance for violence at the Shelter House and police are called immediately. Hajdu said they have policies in place to make sure staff, clients and volunteers are safe.
“We’re seeing increased desperation out there,” she said. “The housing market is incredibly tight. Shelter stays are longer and longer and people are not gaining access to drug and alcohol addiction services or even primary care services for that matter.”
The Shelter House fed an average of 650 meals a day last month. Hajdu said that proves the need is growing so the city has to sit down and form a strategy to find solutions.