Some ‘enthusiastic’, others dismayed by news Charlottetown consumption site may change IG News

IG news Update,

Some people living near 33 Belmont St. in Charlottetown are celebrating the news that it may not be home to Prince Edward Island’s first supervised injection site.

Resident Greg Doyle had collected over 180 signatures on a petition calling for the proposed facility to be moved.

On Friday, Doyle said he was “excited” Progressive Conservative leader Denis King pledged to find a new site if his party is re-elected in the April 3 provincial election.

All of the major party candidates running in District 12, which is in the Belmont Street area, said at a public meeting Wednesday night that they felt there was a need to change locations.

Doyle said, “I was concerned about turning to another outreach center and I think that was the message we were driving home.”

“We want to put it in an area, maybe an industrial area or someplace where you’re away from so many people and so many issues that are associated with 33 Belmont.”

I was worried about changing to another outreach center.– Greg Doyle

The Community Outreach Center of Charlottetown provides services, training and day shelter to people with complex needs, including those with addictions or lack of access to housing.

Some neighbors of that facility last year spoke out against its location in downtown Charlottetown at the old curling club on Euston Street. But other residents of the city supported it, saying it was accessible to people who use it.

A woman is standing in front of a city street.
Robin Graham, shown in file photo, says the backlash to the Belmont Street location was not based on what was best for the community. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

The accessibility requirement is why District 12 resident Robin Graham supports the Belmont Street location for a supervised consumption site.

“We’ve already been without a safe injection site for way, way, way, way too long,” she said on Friday. “It’s always better to have resources where the people are.”

Graham said the site is close to the Upper Room food bank, the outreach center and the Park Street temporary shelter.

That said, a harm reduction site that is not accessible is not used.

A man waits to enter a supervised consumption site.
A man waits to enter a supervised consumption site in Calgary, Alta. In this picture from 2021. Such facilities are designed to cut down on drug overdose deaths by ensuring that help is available if a user is in medical distress. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

“One argument is ‘this could save people’s lives,’ and the other argument is ‘I don’t want to see people who use drugs on my street,'” Graham said. “It’s not really balanced…

“Whether people want to admit it or not, people using drugs are actually living in your neighborhood,” she said. “They have homes, they have jobs. All kinds of people use drugs. It’s just not the kind that’s made up in some people’s minds.”

Graham said the entire community is safer when users have a safe place to test the drugs they buy and to dispose of used needles.

Peer Alliance Responds

Wherever it is located, a supervised consumption site is designed to cut down on drug overdose deaths by ensuring that help is available if a user goes into medical crisis.

A row of chairs in front of a long counter holds individual table lamps and secure disposal containers for used needles.
A site in Sudbury provides people with clean supplies, and a place to use drugs under medical supervision. (Sarah McMillan / CBC)

And it will still be inspected by Peers Alliance.

In an email to CBC News on Thursday, Peers Program Director Angel Desroches said the group was “disappointed” about the possible delay of the opening.

“Pears Alliance is looking forward to rolling out this service, which will significantly increase the safety and respect for highly marginalized community members,” the email said.

“We hope that there is a similar urgency for project partners in designating a site.”

The parties involved were originally aiming for a spring opening, following the completion of renovations to the Belmont Street building.

But on Thursday, King said: “We’re looking at late summer, early fall and getting it up and running functionally. So I think we’ll be able to start that on a temporary basis or somewhere with the modular unit.” I think we can stick to that timeline.”