Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jul 2004
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Darren Handschuh
Cited: Central Okanagan Four Pillars Coalition


The lives of Penny Atkinson and her sixyear-old son, Tyler, were
turned upside down the instant he stepped on a discarded hypodermic
needle at Hot Sands Beach

Atkinson was at City Park with her son and some friends Tuesday when
Tyler told her he had stepped on something

To her horror, Atkinson saw a portion of a needle sticking out of her
child's foot. She removed the needle, called 911 and was told to take
her child to the hospital where he was given a shot for hepatitis. He
was to get another shot Wednesday

The situation is an example of how drug use in Kelowna can affect

The problems of drug use, homelessness and the ripple effects they
have on society are not new to the city. Downtown Kelowna Association
executive director Clint McKenzie said Wednesday this is the worst
year he's seen for panhandlers and people hanging out on downtown
streets. He sounded the alarm in March, noting a surge in aggressive
behaviour among street people

The Central Okanagan Four Pillars Coalition is looking into how to
deal with the city's drug problem, and the Downtown Kelowna
Association has endorsed the Safe Streets Act, which would give police
more power to deal with aggressive pandhandlers, squeegee kids and

The act was introduced as a private members bill by Liberal MLA Lorne
Mayencourt and is expected to be on the legislative agenda in Victoria
this fall. McKenzie says Mayencourt has encouraged the DKA to keep the
premier's office informed of the problems they are having

And there's no shortage of information to report. McKenzie said there
have been numerous reports of vandalism, intimidation and aggressive
behaviour by street dwellers. The DKA is working closely with the
RCMP, which has bike and foot patrols roaming the area. The DKA Safety
Patrol also operates seven days a week and will continue to do so for
the rest of the summer

"We're putting everything we have at it, but there are still some gaps
we need to fill," he said

Meanwhile, Tyler's ordeal is far from over

The chances of him contracting HIV or AIDS are slim, but Atkinson said
there is a chance her son could get a form of hepatitis, and they
won't know for several months if he is infected

Tyler will have his first blood test in three months

"It might show up a year from now. It's pretty stressful," said his
mother. "It's not a safe place to go. I don't believe that's the only
needle on the whole beach. I won't go back to that beach. I wonder if
any beach is safe

"When we got to the hospital, the doctor said it happens all the
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake