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Letter criticizing Lethbridge’s ARCHES location sparks controversy among residents

Anti-ARCHES letter sparks conversation among neighbours in Lethbridge
WATCH: A few Lethbridge residents are circulating a letter in the neighbourhood where ARCHES is located, in hopes the organization will move out of the area. Malika Karim reports.

A letter being distributed in a south Lethbridge neighbourhood is sparking conversation and controversy.

Last week, people living in the neighbourhood where the ARCHES facility is located received a letter from fellow resident Al Anctil addressing his perceived changes in the area over the last few years.

ARCHES, which provides community support aimed at reducing harm associated with HIV and Hepatitis C, and is located 1206 6 Avenue South.

It also runs a supervised consumption site in another location in the city.

READ MORE: Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site having impact in first week

In the letter, Anctil writes he has been corresponding with city council members “regarding ARCHES being located in our neighbourhood.” The letter states there has been “an increase in drug houses, drug use, as well as escalating property crime… on and around 6 Avenue, 6A Avenue and 12 Street South.”

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It goes on to call on other residents to call on the mayor and council members to express their concerns.

“Suddenly we’re wondering, ‘Why are we in that much trouble in the neighbourhood with break-ins, vandalism, drugs, sex workers… you name it,'” Anctil said in a phone interview with Global News. “Finding dead people, finding unconscious people in the back alley, picking up needles.”

Anti-ARCHES letter
Anti-ARCHES letter Global News

But other residents in the area don’t share Anctil’s concerns.

“The fact that we have a counselling facility on our block is not the cause of somebody breaking into your vehicle to steal your change out of your console,” Katy Elniski said.

“We go for walks twice a day. I have two one-year-old twins, I feel completely safe in this community. We walk by ARCHES every day.”

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Anctil claims crime in the area has increased since 2016, adding he believes it’s linked to ARCHES supplying supervised consumption services to its clients.

“I personally have no problem with the services they’re offering,” Anctil said. “I have a problem with them in my neighbourhood, simply because of the collateral damage.”

But the organization’s executive director said that doesn’t add up.

“This organization has been providing harm reduction services in this community since 2001, it’s not something that just popped up in the last couple of years,” Stacey Bourque said.

READ MORE: Jason Kenney criticized over safe consumption site comments

Bourque added the supervised consumption services have been provided from the new location since February.

“We’ve had a sign on our door since February 28 [saying] that we’ve moved, and if [clients] need service provision that they need to go over to the 1016 1 Avenue South location.”

Anctil says he will continue his fight to have the organization relocated, seeking legal action if need be.