A construction trailer that will house Ottawa's latest supervised drug injection site is now in place in the parking lot of the Shepherds of Good Hope in the ByWard Market.
By noon Thursday a crew had delivered and secured the trailer beside the charity's shelter at 230 Murray St.
"The trailer really is a stopgap measure because of the severity of the opioid crisis," said Caroline Cox, senior manager of transitional services at the Shepherds of Good Hope.
Cox said there have been repeated incidents of opioid users injecting themselves on sidewalks and in alleyways in the area.
"We really need this service to keep people safe during the winter months," she said.
An interim injection site opened in a Clarence Street clinic last month, and Sandy Hill Community Centre's permanent site on Nelson Street is expected to open by the end of October.
No questions asked
Cox estimates staff will need two weeks to retrofit the trailer into a space capable of accommodating up to eight clients at a time.
She's hopeful the two-week wait will allow enough time for the federal government to come through with an exemption needed to operate within the letter of the law. Without it, Cox said the charity will hold off on accepting clients in the trailer.
That would set the trailer apart from an unsanctioned injection site run by Overdose Prevention Ottawa in a nearby park.
Once that permission is granted, Cox said there are no plans to question clients about where they got their drugs.
"People would be welcomed to inject prescribed opioids or illegal opioids," said Cox. "We're not going to be questioning them. Our priority is their safety and well-being."
Permanent space long-term goal
The charity is working with Ottawa Inner City Health to staff the supervised injection trailer with registered practical nurses and peer support workers.
"I think it's overdue," said John Sangster, a self-described former opioid user who said he's trying to stay clean. "They can provide people education so that they don't do foolish things."
Cox said the short-term plan is to use the trailer this winter, but establish a more permanent supervised injection space inside the charity's building.