Pubdate: Wed, 02 Aug 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Liz Monteiro
Page: A1


Drug use, disposed syringes a concern in downtown Galt

CAMBRIDGE - Robin Thomas often holds her pet Chihuahua in her arms
when she takes him for a walk on the trail along the Grand River
behind her condo building.

She's afraid her dog will step on used syringes that litter the brush
near the trail.

Thomas lives at The Grand Condominium at Waterscape on Water Street.
She moved there almost two years because she wanted to live in
downtown Galt and was attracted to the view of the river from her balcony.

"I love it here and I'm a fighter," said the 53-year-old retired
business owner.

"But if it doesn't clean up, I will put it up for sale," she

Thomas also lives near The Bridges, the Cambridge shelter located on
Simcoe Street near Ainslie Street.

"I can understand homelessness when people are trying to get off the
street. I'm all for that, but not what I'm seeing out here," Thomas

"When you live here and you really see it, it's so sad," she

"I have to keep my eyes peeled to the ground when I walk the

It's common to see people passed out in the brush near the water's
edge and the area is strewn with backpacks and clothes, she said.

"You see them on the ground almost comatose. You don't know what to
do," she said.

A walk on the trail behind Galt Collegiate this week led to plenty of
syringe caps and alcohol wipe wrappers.

"What if you had to live here and pick up syringes?" she said. "This
is my community, too."

Thomas said she supports recent comments by Cambridge coroner Dr. Hank
Nykamp, who said he's concerned with the number of overdoses and
deaths associated with opioid drug overdoses, especially the deadly
drug fentanyl.

Nykamp said Cambridge is becoming the drug capital of Ontario with
"drug houses" and "crystal meth factories." He said the Bridges
shelter was part of the drug problem in the core area.

Nykamp said the drug issue needs to be taken seriously and politicians
must participate in solutions. He suggested safe injection sites, more
counselling services and additional affordable housing units.

Fentanyl is causing havoc in many communities across the country.
Locally, 39 people have died of drug overdoses since January, said
Waterloo Regional Police.

And investigators say the amount of fentanyl seizures 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.

Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig said the city has been focusing on the
fentanyl crisis for at least three months and is in the midst of
creating a task force to look at addressing the issues in the core
area of Galt.

Coun. Frank Monteiro, who met with Cambridge's fire chief and deputies
on Tuesday, discussed having naloxone kits on fire trucks in the
future. Front-line officers with Waterloo Regional Police already
carry naloxone kits.

Monteiro said he respects Nykamp and knows many are frustrated with
the deadly consequences associated with the powerful drug fentanyl,
but he's not convinced Cambridge is the drug capital.

"We are no different than any other city," he said. "Everyone is
experiencing this problem with fentanyl."

Monteiro said he hopes the mayor's task force will be an opportunity
to learn from others such as business owners and former drug users on
how to combat the problem. The executive director of Bridges will sit
on the task force.

"We need to be educated on this. The more we know the better," he

Carrie Peart, who along with her brother owns Reids Chocolate, Candy
and Nut Shop on Ainslie Street, said she has seen increased numbers of
people "hanging out" in the downtown but doesn't think it's deterring
customers to her store.

She used to be open until 9 p.m. but has cut back on the late

"Parking is still more of an issue than the homeless," she

The Bridges shelter administration pointed to a Facebook post when
asked to respond to the fentanyl crisis.

In the post, Julie Watts, board chair of the Cambridge Shelter
Corporation, said, "The Bridges was built on the foundation and
principle 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. '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."

Watts said the fentanyl crisis will take "hard work by many agencies,
all levels of government, and the community as a whole. We are
committed to being a part of the solution." "We are proud of what we
do," she said. Dianne McLeod, program co-ordinator of the Cambridge
Self-Help Food Bank on Ainslie Street, said the agency is seeing more
people coming through its doors.

"We are seeing lots of new faces, and I don't know where they are
coming from," she said.

McLeod said the addiction issue is complex; often, drug users
experience some sort of trauma and the drug use is their way of
"numbing the pain or hiding from something."

"When they are off the drugs, the pain floods back. Where is the help
for that?"

McLeod said the agency's two street outreach workers speak to those
using, and some say they are not calling 911 when someone overdoses.
Instead, they are using the antidote naloxone.

"People doing substances are afraid to call police. They fear they
risk losing their housing if they call police," McLeod.

McLeod said she'd like to see more street outreach and increased
patrols on retrieving used needles. She wants to see additional
counselling and other services to get users treatment if they want

"Dead addicts can't recover. We have to keep them alive," she said.
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