Part of downtown Red Deer was covered with trash Sunday morning.
Michelle Edwards from Country Cupboard posted pictures of a pile of garbage outside the business on Facebook. The 28-year-old has been helping out her family with the business for six years. She said the weekend garbage dump was the worst she has seen in the area.
Food scraps, coffee and drink cups, paper plates and plastic cutlery were spread outside Country Cupboard at 5022 Gaetz Ave. The litter continued from the stretch of 52nd Street to just before Ross Street area, Edwards said Monday.
“It was pretty much our whole side of the block.”
She also posted a picture of Dumpsters behind the Scotiabank building and MC College area, right around the corner from Country Cupboard. The photo shows a pile of rubbish next to the bins.
Edwards’ dad received a text early Sunday letting him know of the garbage that sat outside the family’s store, which was closed that day. Her mom, Cathy, went down between 9 and 10 a.m. to clean it up and spent about 45 minutes or so picking up the trash, but that time was not enough to clean it up completely.
The store’s entrance was covered with garbage.
“It looked like somebody just took a garbage can and ripped it open there and dumped it and left,” Edwards said.
The mother said trash is becoming a concern in the downtown area.
“Especially the Dumpster diving behind us and around the parking lot area Dumpsters. We always find garbage pulled out and left strewn about. And it is really disgusting that they think they can defacate anywhere they please, leaving it for us to clean up. More than once,” the woman said Monday.
Wei’s Western Wear employee Ashley Perry saw the litter as soon as she pulled in at 10 a.m. to start her Sunday shift.
“It looked like somebody was using tongs and a bag to go through the garbage, because there was a bunch of garbage all around our garbage cans in the front of our store,” said Perry, adding that her boss had to clean it up.
“It’s very disrespectful and it’s hard to bring in customers when the front of the store looks like that.”
Perry said the business donates returned or out-of-style items to the homeless because they’re “understanding of their circumstances.”
“But at the same time, we have so much property damage. Our gate got broken three times, and the window (in the past three months). There’s only so much you can take before you start getting mad,” she said.
Perry said vandalism is a problem for Wei’s. Last week, there was graffiti on the gate, for instance.
Michelle Edwards said homeless people rest in the store’s vestibule at times.
“We don’t have a problem with that … and occasionally, we find needles in there.”
“I find that if you’re nice to them, they’ll be nice to you. They’re people too. It’s just the occasional random ones and I don’t know if it’s mental health or drug addiction.”
Selene Fraser, the owner at Barber Shop on Gaetz, next door to Country Cupboard, said loitering is an issue. She said the new downtown police unit helps, but it would be better if rules such as no loitering and no panhandling were enforced.
“It’s frustrating. I don’t know what the answers are. I love my shop and I love my customers and I do have empathy for addicts,” she said.
Amanda Gould, executive director of the Downtown Business Association, said the group’s clean team came across the garbage in the area around 10:15 a.m. Sunday and cleaned it up within 45 minutes.
“This kind of activity is completely isolated. Our clean team is very, very quick to tidy it up,” said Gould.
“Although this is an isolated incident, we do see it from time to time. Sometimes, it comes from our street population, and they may have knocked over their cart or something like that. Who knows what it could’ve been, but we’re there to clear it up,” Gould said.
Prairie Office Plus was once located at 5022 Gaetz Ave., but the business relocated to Taylor Drive in July. General manager Sandra Farquharson said issues that come with the homeless population was one of several reasons the business moved to another part of the city.
For the seven years Farquharson was working downtown, she saw two company vehicles constantly vandalized in the back parking lot. Farquharson said she often found trash from the nearby Dumpsters on the property.
“People would graffiti our building. Often Monday morning, I would come in expecting to do a full clean from the weekend, and the cleanup included clothes, beer bottles, drug paraphernalia, needles, pipes that people are smoking out of, condoms, even human feces, which is insane,” she said.
Farquharson kept a crowbar at her desk and threatened to use it several times.
“They would tell me they could steal whatever they want and there’s nothing I could do about it. I would have people standing in front of the windows swinging chains, trying to intimidate the people in the store. Customers wouldn’t want to come to my store, or I had to walk them to the car,” she said.