North End trash volcano is gone but illegal dumping still goes on


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A “trash volcano” behind a North End apartment block has been quelled for now, but the issue of inner-city illegal dumping persists.

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A “trash volcano” behind a North End apartment block has been quelled for now, but the issue of inner-city illegal dumping persists.

Trash (including discarded needles and rotting food) overfilling a large garbage bin at 270 St. John’s Ave. — and trailing into the adjacent back lanes — for weeks inspired an area resident to reach out last week to the Free Press with their concerns.

Within days of the published article, the dumpster had been removed and the remaining garbage was cleaned up by the apartment block’s owner.

Just steps away, however, two more bins sit, surrounded by piles of broken furniture, fast food wrappers and ripped-open garbage bags.

The St. John’s building is home to Lanawae Housing Centre, a non-profit organization formed in April 2022 that uses its units as transitional housing for 10 to 20 people, many of whom suffer from addictions or mental health issues, at any given time.

It says its tenants aren’t the main contributors to the constant garbage pile — it’s often dumped there by other organizations and residents in the area, it said. When the private garbage removal company stopped coming, it quickly became dangerous for the high-risk tenants it serves.

“The garbage was always filling up, and then it just became this dumping ground,” Lanawae director of operations Tricia Dano said Monday.

“All of a sudden, I would come in, and there’s six mattresses in the back. Or somebody dumped a couch there or somebody dumped an entire load of construction stuff one time.”

The Free Press contacted the owner of 270 St. John’s Ave., who refused to speak on the record Monday.

Dano said she was forced to attempt to move garbage from the building to the city dump using her own vehicle.

“There was a pile on the side of the building that just looked like boxes and parts of furniture. So I went to go grab and collect them, and in the last box, just as I picked it up, I saw it — a (used) needle was sticking out and it poked me right in the finger,” she said.

“So I had to go to the hospital… to get treated with PEP, it’s called, to make sure that I didn’t catch HIV or something, then I had to go on antibiotics.”

Dano is hopeful the building has turned over a new leaf and the garbage removal will continue, most importantly for the sake of the tenants Lanawae serves.

“We’ve dedicated ourselves to helping those that no one else will. They’re totally forgotten,” she said. “And we’re being labeled as this awful place where most of the stuff that’s happening there we have no control of, and it’s pretty frustrating.”

It’s a constant problem in the North End, advocates say.

Mitch Bourbonniere has been a community activist with a focus in Winnipeg’s inner city for decades. He said he has seen people bring piles of garbage into the community.

“What I noticed is people dumping truckloads of garbage near those (homeless) camps, almost as a camouflage, where they use the issue of homelessness to be able to dump their crap,” he said Monday. “That’s pretty terrible.”

In more residential areas, people will recognize dumpsters that aren’t regularly cleaned, and it’ll quickly become a “free-for-all” for illegal dumping.

“I think there’s a disrespect for the inner city,” Bourbonniere said. “And there’s a disrespect for vulnerable people, and people will actually take advantage of that.”

Regardless of whether trash is collected through the city or a private contractor, it’s ultimately the city’s responsibility, Bourbonniere said.

“It is a public health issue, and it’s just not fair to the people that live in the inner city, in those areas. It’s almost a statement, right? ‘We can do this,’” he said.

“They wouldn’t get away with that in Bridgwater or Sage Creek, so why are they getting away with this on St. John’s?”

Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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