In tiny Elliott Park, a spartan municipal campground with seven gravel-topped campsites, visitors can stay for five dollars a night with no check-ins and no permits required. The Exeter, Ont., park is maintained by volunteers and operates on an honour system similar to the roadside vegetable stands that dot this community of 4,800 people in Huron County, about 40 kilometres north of London, Ont.

In 2016, complaints started about campers overstaying. Some allegedly left drugs and drug paraphernalia scattered on lots a few blocks from the busy downtown shopping district. But as the municipality moved to clean up the park and ban long-term camping in 2019, the larger community was forced to confront deeper issues that had previously festered out of sight.