Nanaimo senior Barb Cowell gripped a machete Friday, fuelled by months of frustration and calls to police.

“I can swing this thing,” said Cowell, as she and fellow neighbours cleared an overgrown Milton Street lot next to their homes.

Illegal activity at the lot has left her community in fear and banded them together.

“I didn’t know how to use a machete before,” said Cowell.

We do this every single day, every single night,” said another resident Natalie Cunliffe.

“None of us sleep.”

According to neighbours, the trouble on the lot started at the outbreak of COVID-19, when a man who owned a neighbouring Milton Street home died.

“Since March 19, everything just went crazy,” said neighbour Joy Reavley.

“And the people were coming and going and then they were in here.”

“When he passed away, some people moved in,” said Cunliffe.

“And ever since then its been an onslaught of prostitution, drug use and they’ve moved into the field of filth we call it.”

The home was raided by RCMP in June, has been deemed a nuisance by the City of Nanaimo, and each call to police is being charged back to the owner.

But according to neighbours, the crime has continued and spilled over into the empty lot across Milton Street that is now filled with needles and trash.

“It’s a terrible situation to live in and having to deal with the crime,” said neighbour Andrew Homzy.

“They think they have this power over our neighbourhood,” said Cunliffe.

“They’ve taken it over. We’re taken it back.”

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said the city is applying pressure against the property owner with fines. But Krog said provincial and federal support is needed to deal with the homelessness and drug addiction that’s at the heart of this problem.

“In the meantime, neighbourhoods like those on Milton see the problems first hand in their neighbourhoods, in their backyard and on their streets,” said Krog

 

Skye Ryan