KAMLOOPS - As homelessness and drug use continue to be a problem in Kamloops, some residents on the North Shore are wanting to know what is being done to deal with the rise in the number of drug needles being dumpbed in their neighbourhoods.
Finding used drug needles has become a common occurrence for residents like John Moman. He says coming upon a scene like what is shown in his picture of the park bench across the street from Spirit Square is becoming far more common.
"Spirit Square and that park are getting real bad," he says. "Every morning I take my wife to work I see people out there smoking heroin, doing needles, fighting, looking like they're going to die on the spot."
Moman says the problem isn't isolated to the area immediately behind Ask Wellness where a safe consumption RV has been stationed for several months. He also has to deal with being around used drug paraphernalia when getting his morning coffee at the Tim Horton's a couple blocks down the road.
"They finally got a bit of a control on it," he says. "But you go there in the morning and you've got people coming right in asking for money and cigarettes. They go in the bathroom and you find burnt tinfoil and all kinds of stuff."
Mike Robinson lives in the home next to the patch of grass with the park bench that is so often littered with used drug paraphernalia. He says from what he's seen it isn't that all the drug users who pass through there leave behind a mess. Most of it is coming from a few people that just don't seem to get what they are doing to the community.
"It depends on who's around. Most of them around here know how to keep it clean because we've had enough cops hassle them," he says. "But there's a select group that just don't care. I know there are a couple people that would do it just because. For the most part they're pretty clean, but you get the odd days when people are just jackasses."
Robinson says he cleans the needles up when he sees them and he has noticed Ask Wellness workers cleaning up the mess as well.
Executive director of Ask Wellness Bob Hughes says images like what Moman captured highlight the need for an organized approach to cleaning up these kinds of scenes.
"I don't think there has been sufficient recognition of the impact this drug crisis has had on communities," he says. "There is no official policy around who is responsible for cleaning up needles, sharps, and harm reduction material. We are going to pick them up whether we're funded to do it or not. because we feel that as one of the primary suppliers of harm reduction material and equipment to save peoples lives there is a responsiblity to go and clean this up."
Refering to Moman's picture, Hughes says it is a testament to the severity of the addictions crisis in B.C.
"That we have people who are so disengaged from their community that they are careless enough to leave their waste and materials like that, it's shameful," he says.
Hughes believes there is a role for an enforcement strategy in dealing with drug users who don't properly dispose of their drug paraphernalia. He would like to see some kind of stepped up enforcement similar to what we see in drug free zones around schools. He also wants residents and businesses in the area to know work is being done to find a solution to the epidemic littering North Shore streets.
What Hughes wants to avoid is the pointing of the collective finger at all drug users. To put things in perspective, Kamloops has about 1,500 known IV drug users with most of them using several needles a day.
With thousands of clean needles going out of Ask Wellness' doors each day and the vast majority of those being returned safely, he says, the key now is to target the segment of the drug using population that has been causing the issue and find out what will motivate them to change their behaviour.
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