Pubdate: Thu, 03 Aug 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Luisa D'Amato
Page: B1


The people who want to walk the riverside trails in Galt without being
confronted by the discarded syringes of drug addicts have every right
to voice concern.

I don't blame them one bit for wanting to reclaim their community and
asking that it be cleaned up.

Robin Thomas, who carries her dog in order to protect it from stepping
on drug paraphernalia, often sees clothes and backpacks stowed in the
underbrush. Sometimes she even sees people who are "almost comatose."

"You don't know what to do," she said. "This is my community, too." If
the situation doesn't improve soon, she will move away from her Water
Street condominium. It's near The Bridges homeless shelter.

The shelter doesn't tolerate drug use, but it is a magnet for troubled
people with nowhere else to turn, and some of those people are
addicted to powerful drugs like opioids and crystal meth.

It is also experiencing huge increases in the number of people coming
there. Last year it would typically accommodate 50 people a night;
this past winter, up to 150 people have come.

Shelter representatives didn't respond immediately to my request for
an interview. Media inquiries have been directed to a Facebook post by
board chair Julie Watts.

In it, she says the shelter believes "that all people have value,
regardless of their mental health or current situation.

"Since its inception, The Bridges has worked closely with the
community, and has been extremely grateful for its support," she wrote.

"'Those people' who are our clients are somebody's brother, mother,
sister, father, or grandparent. They deserve to be helped and
respected, not to be judged."

This sounds combative, but I think everyone is on the same side

It seems to me that people who live near a homeless shelter and other
social agencies have just as much right to enjoy their neighbourhood
as anyone else.

It's also clearly true that those discarded syringes and those
passed-out bodies are a very loud cry for help.

A cry that's getting louder all the time, and one that cannot be

Waterloo Regional Police say the amount of fentanyl, the opioid drug
so powerful that a tiny grain can kill you, has more than doubled.
Last year from January to July, police seized 682 grams of fentanyl.
The same period this year has netted 1,556 grams.

Already, the respected local coroner, Dr. Hank Nykamp, has voiced his
concern about rapidly escalating numbers of deaths associated with
drug overdoses in Cambridge.

"If this continues, this acceleration, we may become the drug capital
of Canada," Nykamp told me Wednesday.

He has been invited by Mayor Doug Craig to be part of a special task
force to address the issue.

Coun. Frank Monteiro, a former police officer, wants an increased
police beat presence. Nykamp is already researching the viability of
safe injection sites. Craig thinks there should be more supportive

"We need to get more resources down here," Craig said. That's the
issue, right there. Simply hiring more people to pick syringes off the
trail by the river is a quick fix.

It won't solve the underlying problem, any more than a quick drug hit
will permanently take away the sadness, isolation or anxiety that
pushed the addicts toward drugs in the first place.

Are we willing to spend the money?
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