Lions Gate thrift shop used as dump

Junk dropped off at night a costly burden for volunteers

A North Vancouver thrift shop was left with a messy cleanup this week after a large pile of junk was dropped at their doorstep.

Volunteers at the Lions Gate Hospital Thrift Shop discovered a mass of unsellable garbage - including piles of books, furniture and even filthy underwear and socks - had been dumped outside sometime during the nights of Nov. 2 or 3. "It was probably five feet high and the length of our shop, which would be about 20 feet," said Moninna Running, co-chair of the thrift shop. "We've never had a UHaul truck full of stuff before."

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Neighbours saw the culprits unloading a truck at the shop's back door, accessed off a lane between West 15th and 16th streets.

Running said the problem of people using the thrift shop as a dump site for their unwanted junk has happened on and off in the past, but it is getting worse.

Running said the shop is not able to handle bigger items left behind, such as a chesterfield, organ and box spring. That means the shop has to pay someone to take them away and the "donations" end up costing money.

"We have to get a truck if we can't get anybody to take it away, and sometimes we can but most of the time, they don't want it," said Running. "So we have to hire a truck for $80 to $100, to get someone to come and truck it to the dump and we pay for it out of our proceeds."

All of the thrift shop's proceeds go directly back into the hospital.

In the most recent incident, a large table was also left outside but was eventually picked up by an interested customer.

Running said she doesn't want people to stop donating to the store, but added donations need to come in during the day - when staff can assess them.

"We're all volunteers, so we do the best that we can, but it's just becoming overwhelming. That's our biggest problem," she said.

Signs posted outside of the shop alert people about unacceptable items, such as furniture, televisions and large appliances. But often those are ignored.

Running said they have talked to the North Vancouver RCMP. Neighbouring businesses also try to keep a lookout for the thrift shop.

"They often will see somebody and come out and ask them not to leave the stuff because we're not there," she said. "So they look out for us but it's not really fair to put our problem on the neighbours.. ." Sometimes items left outside the shop get strewn over the alley, adding to the problems.

Running said the shop shares a garbage bin with a neighbouring produce business. When the bin quickly filled from all the garbage left behind recently, their neighbour was unable to use his share of the bin.

"Then he gets taken to task by people because his garbage is all over the place because he has no room," she said.

Running said the thrift shop doubled its size six years ago and is at full capacity again.

"We're bursting and we do need space," said Running. Running said people come from all over the Lower Mainland to shop at the store.

Running said the store does an "amazing" job of recycling items and making money for the hospital.

"We've only got this one blot," she said.

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