Letter: I work near overdose prevention site in Red Deer. This is what I see every day

I wanted to share my experiences of working half a block away from Red Deer’s Safe Injection Site. I believe my perspective wasn’t captured in the recent government investigation. No one, within my office, was questioned regarding the nearby site’s impact on our daily business or safety. My coworkers and I are scared, and angry, that our realities are being overlooked in the decisions that are made for our community.

When the site first opened, I was really on the fence. We were visited by “Injection Site” staff to ensure us of our safety. It was explained that staff members would circulate through the area, every morning, picking up any debris or garbage that might be left by their patrons. They promoted their rehabilitation programs and the positive effects these sites have on communities. At the time, I was not a believer in a program such as this, but decided to have an open mind. I had no idea what we were in for, or what was to come.

Since the opening of the site, I have seen things that I never dreamed that I would see in Red Deer. Steady streams of intoxicated people cross through our parking lot and front lawn. We continually witness yelling, fighting, and have even seen a man holding a woman by her throat as threats were being screamed to kill her. Our service vehicles have been broken into numerous times. We have found stolen property dumped in our parking lot. We have called 911 on several occasions to deal with unconscious/passed out/overdosed people on our front lawn or to simply remove people from our office. We have stepped out our doors to find individuals smoking crack and even “shooting up.” Daily, we find litter, drug paraphernalia, and needles. Our most recent call to the RCMP involved us witnessing someone with a gun. All of these activities are taking place in broad daylight. You can imagine my fear when I have to work after hours or go my office in the middle of the night when I am on-call.

My burning questions are:

If the Safe Injection Site is helping our community, why am I finding needles and drug paraphernalia half a block away? Why am I seeing overdoses half a block away? Are the people who need it, truly making it to the site?

Why are the faces, I see, becoming familiar? I thought one of the goals of the safe injection site was rehabilitation.

Why does the safe injection site’s impact on “my business” and “my safety” not matter?

I encourage anyone to ask downtown businesses how many break-ins they’ve had, what they’ve paid to have security shutters installed, and how many times they’ve been called by their security companies in the middle of the night. Are you willing to shop in downtown Red Deer if you don’t see a security guard on patrol? Perhaps kind intentions could be better directed towards the volunteers patrolling your neighborhoods or to the hard working citizens that work to keep our parks clean, and safe, for our children.

Please know that my heart goes out to anyone that has a loved one suffering from addiction. We are all touched by it in one way or another. However, I don’t believe safe injection sites are the answer. My front-seat view has reinforced, my belief, that street drug use has basically been legalized. Even though intentions are driven by compassion, the bottom line is we have become a society of enablers. It is unfathomable that communities are being forced to accept this as a new normal. If my perspective seems harsh or judgmental, I encourage anyone to rent a space downtown. There are tons of vacancies and rent is cheap. It is time for restore our, once beautiful, city and demand change that benefits our community as a whole.

Sandra Bowe, Red Deer

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