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Large homeless encampment near Longueuil elementary school draws concern

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Parents and officials from a Longueuil elementary school are raising concerns about a large homeless encampment down the street from the school's playground.

The encampment has been in place outside Ecole des Petits-Explorateurs elementary school on Bourassa Street in Vieux-Longueuil for about a year, but the school's principal Chantal Fortin said within the last few weeks, the tent city has expanded in size.

It now numbers about 20 to 30 tents in size.

"This winter it just became out of control. Tents were growing everywhere. We were dropping [off] our kids next to a tent and people were sleeping there so kids are feeling worried they're going to wake them up," said parent Alexandra Oberson.

Fortin also claimed there have been "incidents" between the homeless community there and students, but would not provide more details.

Oberson said she knows it's a complex issue, but the bottom line is kids have to be safe. Two of her three children attend the elementary school.

"I mean it's good that your kids realize there are people in a situation where they have a hard time getting a house, getting a rent that's within their budget, but it's another thing to confront kids this age to drug abuse, alcohol abuse, prostitution," she said, noting that there was a safety situation this week that involved knives. "Kids are supposed to be able to play outside and be safe at this age."

The encampment was erected at that location because a community organization in a church nearby is providing services, including food.

Maurice Lamoureux, who has lived there for two days, told CTV News he's in the encampment because it's impossible to find housing he can afford.

"For sure I don't want to live here," he said, adding a community organization will be helping him find housing in the coming days.

"I don't have a choice because I don't have money for rent or an apartment," he siad. "You know, an apartment, a 3 ½, it's $1,400, I can't pay for that."

Police are visiting the site daily to patrol the area.

Longueuil Mayor Catherine Fournier said she's set to make an announcement about this encampment next week.

Oberson said municipalities need to come up with solutions to assist the homeless population while keeping kids safe.

"We understand that homelessness is really something that we're talking about in every city. Our issue is that can we draw a line where it makes sense for cities to give public land for our homeless, but maybe not right next to an elementary school or anything that has to do with kids younger than 12," she said.

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