Some 'elated,' others frustrated at news Charlottetown consumption site could change
Some people living near 33 Belmont St. in Charlottetown are celebrating news that it might not be home to Prince Edward Island's first supervised injection site.
Resident Greg Doyle had collected more than 180 signatures on a petition to relocate the proposed facility.
On Friday, Doyle said he was "elated" Progressive Conservative Leader Dennis King pledged to find a new site if his party is re-elected in the April 3rd provincial election.
All the candidates from the major parties running in District 12, which takes in the Belmont Street area, said in a public meeting Wednesday night they felt the location needed to change.
"I was worried about turning into another Outreach Centre and I think that was the message we were getting going to door to door," Doyle said.
"We want this put 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 turning into another Outreach Centre.' — Greg Doyle
Charlottetown's Community Outreach Centre offers services, training and daytime shelter to people with complex needs, including those with addiction or who lack access to housing.
Some neighbours of that facility spoke out last year against its location in downtown Charlottetown, in the old curling club on Euston Street. But other downtown residents supported it, saying it was accessible to people needing to use it.
The need for accessibility 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 Friday. "It's always better to have resources where people are."
Graham said the site is close to the Upper Room food bank, the Outreach Centre and the Park Street temporary shelter.
She said a harm reduction site that is not accessible doesn't get used.
"One argument is that '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 accept this or not, people who use drugs are literally living in your neighbourhood," she added. "They own homes, they have jobs. All types of people use drugs. Not just this one type that has been created in some people's minds."
Graham said the whole community is safer when users have a safe place to test the drugs they buy and to dispose of used needles.
PEERS Alliance reacts
Wherever it ends up being located, the supervised consumption site is designed to cut down on drug overdose deaths by ensuring help is available if a user goes into medical distress.
And it will still be overseen by PEERS Alliance.
In an email to CBC News on Thursday, PEERS program director Angele DesRoches said the group was "disappointed" about possible delays to the opening.
"PEERS Alliance is eager to operationalize this service, which will significantly increase safety and dignity for extremely marginalized community members," the email said.
"We hope there is similar urgency for project partners in designating a site."
The parties involved had originally been aiming at a spring opening, once renovations to the Belmont Street building were complete.
But on Thursday, King said: "We were looking at a late summer, early fall at the earliest to get it up and running functionally. So I think we can deal with the modular unit as a temporary basis or somewhere to get that started that I think we can remain on that timeline."