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Officials seek to reassure neighbours of new Montreal supervised injection site

Click to play video: 'New injection site raises concerns among Montreal residents'
New injection site raises concerns among Montreal residents
St-Henri residents living near a recently opened safe injection site say the new facility is bringing havoc to their neighbourhood. As Global’s Dan Spector explains, Quebec’s minister of social services paid a visit to quell their concerns – Apr 26, 2024

Residents of Montreal’s Saint-Henri neighbourhood who live near a recently opened supervised injection site say the new facility is bringing havoc to their area.

People describe drug use in the streets, threatening behaviour and more. Quebec’s Minister of Social Services even paid a visit on Friday in a bid to quell their concerns.

“I’m concerned,” said Karen Avendano, who lives on Greene Avenue, right across the new Maison Benoît Labre. “I’m concerned about my security. I’m concerned about everybody’s security in the area.”

Since the resource for people experiencing homelessness and drug addiction opened nearly two weeks ago, Avendano says people have been urinating on her ground-floor window, screaming in the streets, and using drugs.

The facility offers subsidized housing for the unhoused, and a supervised injection and inhalation site on the ground floor.

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It’s right next to a school and a playground in the middle of a residential area. Residents say the early days have been rough on the neighbourhood, as they expected.

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A man who didn’t want to give his name claimed a user of the centre experiencing mental illness came up to him their fists up, ready to fight.

“When people are on drugs, you can’t really negotiate with them. There’s nothing you can do,” said Avendano, adding that she had smelled substances burning that didn’t resemble the odour of cannabis. “I live by myself. I’m afraid for my security.”

On Friday, Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant, local MNA Guillaume Cliche-Rivard and borough mayor Benoit Dorais paid a visit to the site and sent a reassuring message. They called the current rough patch a “transition period.”

“As early as next week, we expect things to improve,” Carmant said.

Concerned residents had rallied against the supervised injection site, with some hoping the facility would be moved before it opened.

Police patrols are very present, and so are intervention workers. Workers will increase their hours as they attempt to keep the area peaceful.

However, officials say a key issue is the main entrance of the building on Atwater isn’t ready yet, so users are accessing it through the back on Greene Avenue.

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“As early as Monday, everybody’s going to enter by the front door, so there won’t be so much access here by the back door,” said the area’s Quebec Solidaire MNA Guillaume Cliche-Rivard.

Avendano wonders why the facility opened before the main entrance was operational.

“Don’t open a centre if the centre is not ready to receive people,” she said.

Officials from the school refused to speak.

Carmant said the facility is important for a very vulnerable sector of the population. This is an important project we’re going to move forward with,” he said. “There’s 50 deaths every month because of overdoses. It’s the number one cause of death of young adults in Canada. We take this very seriously.”

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