I response to the recent article “TRANSFORMATION OF OUR NEIGHBOURHOODS”

By Kinga Bobula

At present, Ward 3 in Hamilton has many open-air drug consumption sites. Those include but are not limited to: parks, playgrounds, alleys, and green space in general; benches, bus shelters, phone booths, building entrances, staircases; public washrooms, areas behind dumpsters, sidewalks, and parking lots. As a result, these places become danger zones due to discarded syringes, frequently with uncapped needles. A person can also find a few of those thrown casually in someone’s blue recycling bin. And let’s not forget the litter associated with drug injection, tourniquets finding a second use among children as slingshots.

Since getting pricked by a used needle is an everyday possibility, what to do if you or your child accidentally steps on one? The advice is: let it bleed, wash the wound with running water, and, of course, go to the nearest hospital, where you will be prescribed a preventative treatment with antiviral medications.

Imagine, if only there was a place for drug users to proceed with their habit in an enclosed and supervised location where those syringes could be disposed of properly? Something like a bar is to alcoholics…You would think such locales would already be operating all over downtown. That may have also prevented the deaths of over 1,000 men and women in the last 16 years. And although people in Hamilton die from various causes every day, the shift in the number of overdose-related expiries is of concern; from 26 in 2005 to 166 in 2021 ( data from Hamilton Opioid Information System) Hamilton Opioid Information System | City of Hamilton

I think we can agree that substance abuse and resulting addiction are not going away and will continue to happen, as it is a chronic relapsing condition with underlying causes, often from traumatic events from the past that may never be resolved. In that light, providing drug addicts with a safe space and a safe mode of consumption serves as a healthcare service. And it should be delivered to areas that persons who inject drugs already inhabit. So what are we going to do for our vulnerable neighbors with drug dependence? After all, they live just on the other side of our fences. Are we, as a community, going to help them stay safe until they decide to break with their addiction? Or are we going to continue deflecting the issue? Because it is already happening in our backyard.