Street Ties: To build or not to build

“Not in my neighborhood; business is hard enough already,” is something we are going to hear a lot in the near future. This and a lot of pro and con articles, editorials and letters as well as verbally expressed opinions will be the norm until a safe injection site is built, (sorry, opioid consumption site). I keep getting lost in that double-speak.

The whole issue of spent needles which have so boastfully been distributed has come to the point of making a decision on the possible solutions to a major problem. Of course, one solution is the building of a safe injection site but the language used in an article* which names it an opioid consumption site means that already there is more planned, (even before the funding for research comes through), than just a place to inject drugs and hopefully control the spread of discarded needles.

Reading between the lines, in my limited understanding, the name given to the process seems to suggest any process used to consume any kind of drug will be provided for at the tax-payers expense.

So now comes the question; do I agree with the concept of a safe injection site? In principle, yes I do. Do I believe that it will solve the needle disposal problem? Maybe about 30 per cent. Even that though would be huge. Let me explain my reasoning on this.

I live across the street from a playground, which is used a fair bit by children. Twice, recently, I have observed, first a young woman and then a young fellow sitting under one of the trees in this park and inject whatever drug they were taking. After they left, I walked over to where they sat and in both cases found a needle and other related articles. The young woman even left her sweater which she had used to conceal her activities from prying eyes.

Both were from this neighbourhood, and neither one would be seen on the street downtown, so I feel that they would not be using any set up injection site either. Having related this story, I still feel that any reduction of spent needles would be welcome, especially by the downtown community.

If I have any difficulty in the chosen assessment process, it is the statement that we leave it to input from the ‘experts in the trade’; namely the drug users. In my mind, this is tantamount to asking prison inmates what services do they feel would be nice for them while in prison. That we the paying public will be excluded from input totally flies in the face of citizenship and its responsibilities. That statement is similar to a statement made by MP John Munroe in the fisheries debate in the ’70s or ’80s where he was quoted as saying, “these people don’t know what they want, so we will decide for them”! I believe he lost his cabinet position over that one. By their irresponsible actions and their threat to society these ‘users’ should have the least say in this process.

I think that whoever runs that assessment process better take a long hard look at their agency’s position and responsibility within this community. We pay your bills and really want to support what you do, but do not ever exclude us from your assessment process. Many an organization has failed because they went at it alone.

Anything of this magnitude performed in this city and for this city should include all agencies and all citizens. Stop running this process as an ‘us and them’ exercise and try your best to find ways to bring this entire city on board so that the success of this venture will have a greater chance.

*Red Deer Advocate March 29th ‘Overdose Crises’ Page 5

Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator at Potter’s Hands in Red Deer.

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