'A community will be judged on how they treat their seniors and they will also be judged by how they treat the homeless people'
The Near North School Board says there is no serious safety issue relating to the nearby low barrier homeless shelter which is located across the street from Chippewa and near Alliance school on High Street.
"At Near North District School Board, the safety and well-being of its students and staff are paramount," said Josh Casey, Information/Communications Coordinator with the Near North School Board in an email to BayToday.
" As such our schools are and continue to be safe. Each morning custodians at all NNDSB schools conduct a playground and schoolyard inspection. This practice has been in place for at least 15 years.
"When students are outside 15 minutes before school begins and during recess breaks throughout the school day, students are supervised and visible to the supervisor on school property."
The response comes due to a letter from resident Bryan Moore.
He sent it to the City of North Bay and the District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board which overseas the low barrier homeless shelter.
Moore, a concerned parent whose children go to Alliance, shared the letter with BayToday.
He stated in the letter that the low barrier shelter has forced kids to stay out of the forested areas nearby, and caused concerns over needles. Moore believes the shelter doesn't belong in an area so close to schools.
"I believe it should be moved before school starts next year," said Moore in his email.
"What does the city plan to do about the issues that I have raised here. Should my children have to worry about needles in the school yard? Something they never had to consider until Aug 2020, when the shelter moved to its present location.
"While I do have a certain amount of sympathy toward the individuals who use the shelter, and I recognize that there is a large drug problem in North Bay, when this starts to affect where my children learn, my tolerance level goes to near zero," Moore continued.
Mark King, Chair of the District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board, admits there is a problem with some individuals at the homeless facility but he believes they are not a danger to the school community.
He notes that there is security on-site, and they have put up additional fencing to keep homeless individuals away from neighbouring buildings like the Barclay House and Cassellholme.
Petty crime does occur, such as thefts, but it has not involved the schools.
"These kids need to feel safe at school, there is no question about that and I think part of the problem, there is a misunderstanding," King told BayToday.
"People that use the low barrier shelter are really in a tough situation. Many of them struggle with mental illness and drug addiction. They are not killers. Some may have criminal records -usually misdemeanours."
King hopes the new transitional housing at Gateway Housing next to the low barrier shelter will help get some of the homeless transitioned back into normal life again.
He says concerned parents, and the community as a whole, need to be more understanding.
"A community will be judged on how they treat their seniors and they will also be judged by how they treat the homeless people," said King.
"Because those homeless people end up on the street and it creates a situation where it is not conducive to a solid community that is the best way to put it. You have to have some compassion."