It’s been a part of the community since the start of February but a Lethbridge business owner says he is not impressed with the impact a supervised consumption site is having on his business.
“There’s 665 clients that are using that facility, sometimes up to eight times a day, and yeah, the city does have to deal with that, ” Doug Hamilton, the owner of Hamilton’s Carpet One, told Global News on Friday. “But what about the 99,000 other taxpayers, residents and people in the city? How come we don’t care about them?”
Hamilton says the site’s clients threaten his business by loitering and littering.
The supervised consumption site has injection booths and inhalation rooms that drug users can use as part of a harm-reduction strategy. The site is aimed at encouraging safer drug use and among other services, provides sterile equipment for users to use.
Hamilton said he is unsure if he can go on successfully running his business just doors away from the site and wants local authorities to take action.
Hamilton says his business has thrived for for 73 years, the last 10 of which have been at his current downtown location.
Despite a loyal client base, Hamilton said clients from the supervised consumption site are loitering and harassing the pubic, discouraging and even scaring customers from coming inside.
Hamilton said the risk of property damage has prompted him to spend more money to secure his lot and also complained of litter.
“We had to trim back the trees because we were finding things in there: needles, drug paraphernalia, condoms and just plain trash,” he said.
Hamilton also noted he feels he’s had to secure fencing and electrical output covers — at his own cost — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“That’s all little in comparison to the issues that we’re going to deal with and the amount of traffic that has just plummeted in the last two to three months,” Hamilton said. “This is our busiest time and we’re lucky to get two or three customers a day.”
Although he is upset, Hamilton said he is a supporter of harm-reduction efforts and keeping the public safe. However, he said he doesn’t believe the current situation supports local businesses. After taking his concerns directly to the mayor, Hamilton said he feels as though his voice is still not being heard.
“He didn’t respond to any of my concerns,” Hamilton said. “He did come down for five minutes and explain to me that they are saving lives, but nothing about how he’s going to help me.”
But city councillors have said they are continually working with local businesses to look for solutions, including holding meetings each week to develop better strategies moving forward.
“What we really need is a place for the transient people to go,” Mayor Chris Spearman said on Friday. “They’re looking for shade and activity and we need to find ways to deal with that as a solution.”