Major Bruce Mac Kenzie has worked for the Salvation Army for 18 years all across B.C., but the destruction he’s seen at the Port Alberni branch is the worst he’s ever witnessed.
It’s not just Mac Kenzie who’s upset. Several of the Salvation Army’s neighbours have expressed concern over the “substantial increase in after hours loitering, depot donation drops offs and theft,” especially during the warmer months.
The branch, which is located at 4181 Redford St. and plastered with signs that read “please, no dumping,” was acquired in 2005 and back then, residents were already concerned as to what problems having a Salvation Army in the neighbourhood might cause.
In a letter sent to city council this month, one resident said that even back in 2005, “the neighbourhood was not happy” about the Salvation Army acquiring the former Redford School property, pointing out that the building was “conducive to loitering.”
Loitering, graffiti, smashed windows and lights along with dumped furniture and other household goods are just some of the issues that Mac Kenzie is facing. While the Salvation Army formerly kept the garbage bins and scrap metal bin locked, they soon found the price of replacing locks and bear bars to be more than they could afford.
The Salvation Army has had a volunteer security guard in the past, but when he left there wasn’t enough money to replace him. Due to the nature of the institution, the Salvation Army isn’t able to apply for gaming grants, which leaves few options for them to come up with the $2500 they need in order to replace the security guard with a security camera, he said.
With an already stretched budget and not enough staff to keep someone there late, Mac Kenzie can’t keep the building or the adjacent field watched over all night.
“I come by after hours,” he said, adding that he’s told some neighbours to call him directly if there’s any trouble at the site.
“I swung by and there was an ottoman and the legs are all broken; it was absolute garbage. It clearly wasn’t a donation.”
While Mac Kenzie said that the police are aware of the issue, there’s little they can do except make sure to include the neighbourhood in their nightly patrols.
Part of the issue is the sheer size of the property, especially the field adjacent to the building. Mac Kenzie is loathe to sell it because the Special Olympics practice there, though as part of his attempts to raise money for security cameras, he has tried.
“I’m at a loss. I hate this. I hate that this is happening.”