Pubdate: Mon, 20 Nov 2017
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Sue-Ann Levy
Page: 5


BIA expresses concern about T.O.'s first harm-reduction site

In a mere matter of months it seems the city's first harmreduction
site has turned one of Toronto's top tourist areas into a needle
disposal site.

Mark Garner, CEO and executive director of the Downtown Yonge BIA,
says they're seeing an "increased number of needles" within blocks of
The Works location on Victoria St. - in YongeDundas Square, in the
washrooms of Tim Hortons coffee shops and in laneways.

At St. Michael's Choir School just a few hundred metres away on Bond
St., principal Linton Soares says their custodian does a "full scan"
of the area around the school every morning and probably picks up two
to three needles on school property and the sidewalk per week.

"Our large concern is the vicinity of the school to the harm-reduction
site," he said last week. "When our boys walk down Bond St. they're
seeing a lot of drug paraphernalia and syringes in the

Soares says they're also seeing a lot more people coming onto the
street near the school - which is situated on both sides of Bond St. -
and sitting down, even defecating, in front of the school. The
280-student school serves students from Grades 3-12.

Whether they like it or not, it has been the responsibility of the
BIA, the shopkeepers and St. Mike's school staff to pick up the
needles they find, not knowing whether they're contaminated, or not.

They've received limited support from public health, certainly none
from the politicians or The Works and some from the police when
they're not too pressed with other calls.

Soares says he's called

3-1-1 a number of times and the response time has been up to 1 1/2
hours depending on what's happening.

Garner says they have a clean-streets team that is out in the area
laneways three to four times a day collecting needles - so much so
that they've developed "hotspots" where they believe people are
injecting drugs. Some of the Downtown Yonge business owners are also
cleaning up needles on their own, even finding them in their
washrooms, he says.

He insists this problem can't just be left to the community to handle
- - that proper support mechanisms must be in place.

"I would suggest that we don't own it (this problem)," he said. "We're
doing this work because we have to ... there should be additional
resources brought to bear in their neighbourhood to address these things."

He agrees harm reduction is needed but wonders if Victoria St. is the
right location for The Works.

"This is the busiest intersection in Canada," he said. "This is the
No. 1 tourist destination and if this is the image City Hall wants to
put forward to the rest of the world ..."

Such is the harmful fallout of trendy sites that allow druggies to
inject their illegal drugs safely, even if those at City Hall who were
behind the plan - Councillors Joe Cressy and Joe Mihevc in particular
- - care little to hear about it.

I'm not all surprised considering the experience with Vancouver's
InSite facility. Retired cop John McKay - the inspector assigned to
the area around Vancouver's facility in the downtown east side from
2003 to 2006 - said 65 police officers were assigned to the area and
the impact was huge on surrounding Gastown and Chinatown.

He told me in an interview last year people were living on the streets
injecting, dealers were there, "human defecation was everywhere,"
there were needles in the alleyways and "a lot of violence."

Let's not forget this is only the first site. Two more are targeted
for opening next month - and the anticipation is that the pop-up site
currently operating in Moss Park will move into neighbouring Fred
Victor Centre if the federal government grants the city approval for a
fourth site. The site planned for the Queen West Central Community
Health Centre (located at Bathurst and Richmond) is already a hangout
for loiterers, as I observed during several training runs.

When I asked The Works manager, Shaun Hopkins, about the plethora of
needles in the neighbourhood, she contended that the harm reduction
site is doing "regular outreach" in the surrounding area - not to
collect needles - but to "connect with people" who inject drugs and to
promote "proper disposal of injection drug use equipment."

She subsequently provided me with a list of instructions on what
people can do if the needles are found on city streets, in parks, on
school properties or on private properties - making it clear that The
Works has no intention of owning the fallout.

Mayor John Tory said he's aware of the issue and has visited the area
with the Downtown Yonge BIA, representatives of Ryerson University and
the local councillor to hear the concerns first-hand.

"My office and I have been urging Toronto Public Health and other
harm-reduction advocates to ensure they work with the community to
address any issues around the supervised injection sites," he said
last week.

"I am deeply concerned about the overdose crisis facing the city and
I'm committed to making sure needles end up disposed of in a safe manner."

- ---------------------------------------------



Location of sites: The Works (Victoria St.) - already open; South
Riverdale and Queen West Central Community Health Centre - to open in

100% funded by the province

Operating funding: $1-million per site ($3-million in total coming
from province per year); another $460,000 spent to transform The Works

Number of visits: 1,000 to The Works since August

Moss Park pop-up site: opened in mid-August

Fred Victor (if approved): $500K to come from health ministry
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MAP posted-by: Matt