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Frustration is Mounting on York Road

The Manager of a local restaurant feels like nobody is available to help businesses on York Road.

Tanisa Kellington said conversations with the Municipality of North Cowichan and the RCMP have “gone nowhere.”

Kellington said the waitlists to get into detox centres are long and staff at York Street Diner have had to put up with a lot of issues.

“Our staff is constantly having to pick up needles, pick up other drug paraphernalia that’s left behind, burnt tinfoil, all sorts of garbage,” said Kellington. “When we were closed down for two and a half months, due to COVID-19, when we came in one day, they had actually vomited all over our door, there have been people naked in our parking lot.

She said a bylaw officer was called in to help and threatened to give her a ticket if she didn’t clean up all the used needles.

Kellington believes the problem will be made much worse when the Wellness and Recovery Centre opens in the 58-hundred block of York Road.

However, Medical Health Officer Shannon Waters said the new centre needs to be located in close proximity to at-risk populations.

“These types of services need to be located where people are at,” said Waters. “What we do hope is that it will bring some stability to the neighbourhood, it will bring needed healthcare services that can help people make connections and focus on some things in their lives that can stabilize and bring better health.”

The centre will be staffed by 50 medical professionals and provide primary care, harm reduction, case management, and on-site treatment, along with an overdose prevention site.

When this becomes a reality, York Street Diner Manager Tanisa Kellington said she’s skeptical the centre will create positive change.

Kellington said, “Why are we putting so much effort into a safe injection site when, not even a week ago, I drove by the safe injection site and there was somebody overdosing outside the building, how is that helping?”

With four schools (Cowichan Secondary, Quamichan Secondary, Alexander Elementary, Duncan Christian School) and Warmland homeless shelter nearby, kids and the public encounter needles, homeless people, and drug-use daily.

Waters said provincial and global evidence suggests that facilities with wraparound services help to reduce illegal activity.

“For individuals who are involved in illegal activity, the level of activity that they might be involved in decreases,” said Waters. “Ultimately, that would be some positive benefit and stabilization for the community.”

The building needs to be renovated and a lot more discussion between Island Health and stakeholders is expected in the coming months.

On September 19, concerned parents protested the Wellness and Recovery Centre by marching from Cowichan Secondary to Quamichan School.

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