Recovering addict Michael Peever works to cleanup used needles and drug paraphernalia in Red Deer. Here under the CP Rail pedestrian bridge Tuesday morning there was no shortage of used needles.

Recovering addict cleaning up downtown

Being homeless for about 20 years hasn’t stopped Mike Peever from taking an active role in making his community a better place to live by picking up drug paraphernalia wherever he finds it.

Being homeless for about 20 years hasn’t stopped Mike Peever from taking an active role in making his community a better place to live by picking up drug paraphernalia wherever he finds it.

Peever, who recently found housing through Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing, moved to Red Deer over a month ago. For many years he has cleaned up drug debris where he has lived.

He is now focused on collecting debris in downtown Red Deer, and carries a container in his backpack to safely collect syringes.

“I do it everyday. It takes me an about hour, two hours, maybe longer. Some days I branch right out and it takes me half a day,” said Peever, 43, on Tuesday.

He wants to keep children safe who might find a syringe and pick it up before an adult can stop them.

The recovering addict said he knows where people will go to inject drugs so he knows where to look. He encourages people who inject drugs to pick up after themselves, and for the rest of the community to take an active role in keeping Red Deer clean.

“I don’t think it should stop at needles or drug paraphernalia. I think we should be just more aware and clean up after ourselves.”

So far Tuesday morning, he picked up four syringes. The most he has found in one day is about 50. He wears gloves for protection and warned drug debris is not limited to the downtown.

“If you’re going to pick up a syringe, pick it up from the right end. Be safe. Not all these syringes are capped,” Peever said.

Kath Hoffman, Safe Harbour’s executive director, said Peever is being a responsible citizen with community spirit.

“I could really see how excited and passionate Mike was about doing his part,” Hoffman said.

Peever said he will continue to clean up debris even though he now has a place to live and doesn’t have to walk around the city without a place to call home.

Without having to carry all his belongings, his backpack is the lightest it’s ever been, he said.

“I’ve been looking in windows most of my life. Now I get to look out one. It’s relaxing.”

Peever, who is a panhandler, said he wished more Red Deerians would acknowledge homeless people they see on the street even if they can’t spare any change.

He recalled how a downtown office worker went out of her way on St. Patrick’s Day to bring him a cupcake.

“I only made about $3.50 that day. When she brought me that she made me feel like a millionaire because she literally took the time and thought of me.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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