Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jun 2014
Source: Daily Press, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Sun Media
Author: Len Gillis
Page: A1


Drug Users, Drug Deals Force Timmins Transit to Shut Bathroom Facilities

Members of the public should not expect to use washrooms at the 
Timmins Transit Terminal anytime soon.

For reasons of safety, the washrooms in the building at Spruce Street 
and Third Avenue are no longer accessible to the public, or transit users.

Timmins Transit manager Catherine Verreault said the decision was 
made just a few weeks ago.

And although some complaints have been directed to the media, 
Verreault said the decision does not violate any local bylaws or 
provincial legislation.

Verreault said Timmins Transit investigated the issue and learned 
that the only public buildings that require washrooms are those that 
have restaurant-style sit-down food service.

When asked if the issue was with rowdy youths loitering in the 
terminal, Verreault said no.

"It's really kind of a touchy subject," she said. "This is about the 
drug users and drug dealers," she said.

"Here, I will show you."

Verreault pulled a large cardboard box down from a shelf. Inside were 
three yellow hospital-style bio-hazard containers, commonly known as 
"sharps containers" because they're designed to hold used syringes. 
She said the boxes had been installed in the public washrooms.

"We put them in there, because needles were being found everywhere 
around here. So we thought we'll put a sharps container in, so there 
would be a place for the needles," she said.

Verreault said they believed they had solved a safety issue by 
preventing an innocent transit user, such as a child, from coming 
into contact with a used drug needle.

"Then we found people were breaking into the sharps containers and 
re-using the needles that were in there," she said.

That's when it was decided to install steel mesh cages over the 
bio-hazard boxes.

Verreault said the decision to lock the washrooms had nothing to do 
with withholding service from the public.

If anything it was done to protect members of the public from 
confrontations with people who were high, were getting high or were 
in the middle of a drug purchase.

"We were having some big, big issues in there. That's why they were 
closed," said Verreault. "I should say we do open them. When the 
Ontario Northland buses get here, the washrooms are open, until they 
leave. They're the passengers who are traveling long distances. So 
Ontario Northland opens them and re-locks them when they leave."

Verreault said the washrooms were first closed recently due to a 
watermain break and that's when staff noticed that the problems with 
the drug community were dropping off. Verreault said Transit had kept 
the drug issue quiet for months.

"We didn't want to advertise to the world, here's the best place in 
the city to come and do drug deals," she said.

Verreault said the issue of drug users in the washroom "certainly was 
a safety concern," for members of the public and Transit employees.

Verreault also revealed that the deplorable conditions left by some 
members of the public have been raised as a health and safety concern 
by some Transit employees.

The issue, she said as delicately as possible, is that members of the 
public were coming into the Transit buildings to use the washroom, 
but many of them didn't bother to actually use the toilet.

Verreault said its the sort of thing she likely would never imagine 
was happening unless she saw the evidence for herself.

"You wouldn't believe what we've had to clean up in there," she sighed.

Another safety issue was vandalism. She said two youths recently 
started a fire in the men's room, but they were caught by an adult. 
The fire was put out.

"Had he not been there, god only knows what could have happened," she said.

Verreault said she doesn't know where the drug users go now, but she 
said from her point of view, she is relieved Timmins Transit is 
seeing less and less of the problem. She said

Verreault said the situation saddens her because it's a bigger 
societal problem. She said she is confident Timmins is not the only 
city that had to contend with such issues.

As she put the sharps container away, she wiped down the table with a 
cloth soaked in alcohol and disinfectant. Then she took off the 
protective latex gloves.

"It's pretty bad that we have to have gloves here for these reasons," she said.

Another transit worker also expressed concern but said she was afraid 
the story would leave the wrong impression in Timmins.

She said the drug users were not from up North, or the James Bay Coast.

"These people who are using drugs and are crapping all over, they are 
as white as me and you," said the worker.

"This was a trial. I will say that we have been doing this as a trial 
and it has been successful," said Verreault.

She added that safety is a concern in the community, especially for 
parents who need to feel assurance that their children are safe if 
they go downtown to a movie on a weeknight in the summer.

"We don't want people afraid to send their kids here because of drug 
deals going on in the bathroom," said Verreault. She said the 
community needs to know that things are getting safer and more under control.

"When I listen to my friends and I hear them say, you know I don't 
want my kids to go there, I want them to feel safe about coming here. 
And so we're doing what we can to make it safe," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom