By Peter Jackson
Journalist of the Local Journalism Initiative
Nadine Hillier was in court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Tuesday, October 18, as a witness in the case of a man who allegedly broke into her home more than two years ago.
“He used my device left on a sofa to record himself masturbating on my son’s clothes and left the video for me to find,” she said in a message to Telegram. . “The cops have a 100% DNA match on him and it looks like he will walk away free although this is like his 10th time on charges like this.”
Hillier was one of more than a dozen residents of the central Labrador city who responded to a Facebook post by The Telegram seeking comment on an escalating lawlessness that has consumed the city of about 8,000 people.
The problem of ‘passengers’ living in the woods and on the trails and wandering around town causing trouble has been a concern in Happy Valley for years, but locals say the situation has come to a head over the past month, and some say it’s not just a case of waiting for something bad to happen anymore.
“People have been murdered, beaten, raped and frozen to death,”
a man wrote.
It is unclear whether the suspect in the Hillier home burglary is one of these transients, and the allegations have not been proven in court.
And that reflects the complexity of the problem.
Although drugs and alcohol usually play a role, no one can figure out why the transient problem continues to grow and why people seem to be camping outside later in the fall and winter.
Almost every night, witnesses hear screams behind their house or have to slam on the brakes when someone jumps in front of their car.
Children and adults are at risk of being accosted or even assaulted in broad daylight. Many have witnessed inappropriate sexual behavior in public.
Residents say it is not safe for children to eat lunch at local establishments or play in playgrounds. A municipal patrol has been put in place to protect children who use a path from the secondary school to Tim Hortons.
Homes, businesses and cars have been broken into.
“It’s very difficult to put into words the chaos that exists here and how it makes people feel,” said Sacha Fraser, whose family had to hire private security for their local convenience store.
Another convenience store owner says he’s had eight thefts since June and is losing regular customers.
Mitch Maidment, owner of Grafter’s Pub, has had his share of criminal behavior.
“The other month a guy was knocking on the pub door while the bartender was cleaning inside, telling her to get out so he could stab her,” Maidment said in a post. “A girl the other week asked us to call the cops for her because a man in a dress was trying to beat her. Myself, some of them threatened to stab me. At night I heard a girl screaming on the bike path next door that someone was trying to kill her, but when I got out it was too dark to do anything.
One thing is clear, says Jackie Compton Hobbs, president of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay Houseless and Homeless Coalition.
“Public safety must be the No. 1 priority.”
The Homeless Coalition helps place families in permanent or temporary housing, often with help from the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. (NLHC).
But even Compton Hobbs admits that most of the 80 or more people who live off-grid aren’t actually looking for a roof over their heads.
“It’s very complex,” she says.
Michelle Kinney, a member of the Nunatsiavut government who runs local shelter Housing Hub, agrees.
“It’s hard to discuss it without any context,” she told Telegram.
“There are a lot of discussions going on. There are talks of a purpose-built facility for Happy Valley-Goose Bay that would provide accommodation spaces, individual apartments, board and lodging, babysitting-type arrangements, as well as community supports. .
But Kinney says the transients she sees don’t come to bed at night.
“We have increased the demand for services at the shelter. So we have a lot of people coming in during the day for meals, toilets, laundry, showers, clothes, hygiene supplies, that sort of thing,” she said.
The shelter can accommodate up to 14 people overnight, she said, and any overflow can be referred to NLHC emergency housing, which will pay to house them in the 68-room Labrador Inn.
Kinney can recount a litany of things the province and community have done for those who refuse to seek shelter. This includes everything from financial awareness to providing rain ponchos and thermal blankets.
But sometimes that’s not enough to keep them safe. Last winter, two people were found dead in separate incidents outside the Housing Hub and Labrador Inn.
“The individual who perished outside the shelter, if he had come to the door of the shelter that night, he would have had a place to stay.
The lady who died at the Labrador Inn had a room at the Labrador Inn so it was not an accommodation issue.
Fraser and others say they have received a lot of empathy from provincial and municipal politicians, but concrete action has been rare.
The Telegram is still trying to arrange interviews with Innu leaders and provincial government ministers who were assigned to an intensive relief team in June to find short-term solutions to the problem while the situation is dealt with. whole situation.
No arrangements had been made by the deadline.
Peter Jackson is a Reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative for THE TELEGRAM
. LJI is a federally funded program. Turtle Island News does not receive funding from LJI.
Add your voice
Is there more to this story? We’d love to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Make your voice heard on our contribution page.