No county advice on providing washrooms to Sarnia’s homeless

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Lambton’s rural leaders say the county has no place to advise Sarnia on providing washrooms in a growing homelessness encampment at Rainbow Park.

The city has been struggling to deal with the issue since the tents began popping up. Wednesday, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley asked councillors to allow county staff to comment on providing sanitation services at the encampment. While Bradley said he was only looking for an opinion from the social services division – as it had done before on homelessness issues – some councillors seemed concerned it would lead to the county providing the services.

“In my thoughts, the washroom part of the deal is not part of the county mandate,” said St. Clair Township Mayor Jeff Agar . “I think it would prolong it more if we were to put restrooms in the park.”

Both Agar and Brooke-Alvinston Mayor Dave Ferguson said there are places those living in the park could go. “I think it has been explained multiple times there is (shelter) space available but we can’t make them go,” Ferguson said.

“It is a City of Sarnia park; that is not our mandate to provide sanitation into somebody else’s park. If were going to do that, I have placed is Brooke Township I want the county to bring in some sanitation…This is a Sarnia problem in a Sarnia park, the (shelter) space is available.”

Oil Springs Mayor Ian Veen agreed saying “The county has done just about everything it can do. What is Sarnia actually doing? This is your park…have we tried to push them out?”

Bradley tried to explain that the city was only seeking an opinion from the county. “This is a human health crisis and the county has been mandated not just to deal with housing but the homeless…where do the other agencies stand on having this step taken?

“There is also human needs. There is impact on the neighbourhood, its having impact on the people who are there,” Bradley added.

But when the vote was counted, councillors turned down the request for advice. All of the rural municipalities, with the exception of Lambton Shores, voted against the request as did Sarnia Councillor Bill Dennis, who believes the encampment should be cleared despite legal precedents which say that violates the rights of the homeless.

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