July 14, 2014 8:13 pm
Updated: July 14, 2014 9:38 pm

Concerns raised over problem of used needles in Edmonton neighbourhood


WATCH: An Edmonton mother is calling on an outreach program to clean up after its clients. As Kendra Slugoski reports, all parties agree more needs to be done to keep everyone safe.

EDMONTON – McCauley residents in central Edmonton are calling on an outreach program to do more to keep their parks and streets safe from used needles.

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One Edmonton mother claims her eight-year-old daughter recently stepped on a syringe in Giovanni Caboto Park. “Luckily,” she wrote in her letter to the Edmonton Journal, “she stepped on the plastic end, not the sharp [end], which was sticking out with blood visible.”

Kylee Nixon added that this wasn’t the first such incident for the family. A few years ago, her husband reportedly stepped on a broken needle that had been discarded in their backyard.

Former drug addict Jody Swabe admits to having shot up heroin in the park. She says she never dumped her needles there. Instead, she would pick up those left behind by others — of which, she said, there would be many.

 “Like seeing a gum wrapper on the ground.”

“I was always cautious because I thought of the other people. But when you get in a certain head space with drug use, you just don’t care.”

The outreach group that the Edmonton mother is laying part of the blame on is Streetworks, which hands out a million needles to Edmonton drug users every year.

“The concept is an exchange. People bring back needles and obtain clean needles,” explained Dr. Stan Houston.

In addition to drop-boxes that are set up in the inner city for people to safely dispose of their needles, the outreach program also does a “needle clean-up” every spring.

It says the program is working, citing a decreased rate of HIV infection in drug users as proof.

But at least one business owner in the area, who says he picks up needles all the time on his property, may disagree.

Houston admits the system is far from perfect, adding that public spaces being littered with needles is “unacceptable.”

He thinks part of the solution lies in continuing to deal with the issue of homelessness that plagues the city.

The doctor also believes that a safe injection site, similar to the one Vancouver has, would help take drug use off Edmonton’s streets.

“In Vancouver what they found was that the safe injection site reduced public injection, reducing needles in the streets,” he said. “I think that’s something we should be seriously looking into.”

READ MORE: Toronto, Ottawa would benefit from safe injection sites: report

Swabe, now almost four years clean, says it’s not as simple as that.

“I think there’s more education, more access to detox centres, recovery centres [needed]. Because you need a place to go after you stop using the drug. Not back to the street.”

A safe injection site is not something the province is currently considering. It would also need the support of the federal government and the city.

READ MORE: Will Ottawa’s tightened rules stop supervised injection sites from opening?

If you see a used needle, the city says to call 311. You can also find more information about safe needle disposal on the city’s website.

With files from Kendra Slugoski, Global News

© 2014 Shaw Media

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