Lethbridge’s only supervised consumption site is marking a milestone.
It’s been one year since the doors opened at the site operated by Arches, but amid efforts to clean up downtown and support those struggling with addiction, local businesses want to see more done.
“Total visits per date, which is not unique registered individuals, is 167,261. We’re averaging 714 visits in February and that’s daily,” said Lindsay Stella, registered nurse and director of clinical services with the supervised consumption site.
Not only has it been a busy first year, but the site is also seeing an increase in visitors every month., amounting to more traffic around area businesses.
“It was bad in the beginning,” said Lou Mate, owner of Graphcom Printers. “It’s much better now — there has been improvement, no question — but I think unanimously, every business [would] like to see more improvement.”
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They’re improvements that are being worked on by not just the consumption site, but also the city.
“We’re working hard to work with community partners as well as the community and we’re actively listening,” added Stella, “and we’re trying to adapt as we go and how we can respond to concerns and make sure our programming is evidence base and we’re listening to all parties.”
Nearby businesses are calling for one change in particular.
“A number of us in this area are asking for the back alley to be closed behind the site because there’s a lot of very bad activity that goes on in the back alley,” Mate said.
The city, meanwhile, says efforts continue to address those kinds of concerns.
“We have provided additional security,” said Mayor Chris Spearman. “When we have the two programs in place — the peace officer program and the watch program — there will be additional uniformed presence in those areas.”
While there’s enhanced security, though, there still aren’t many options for users after consuming at the site. There are no plans underway for the city to buy any nearby buildings for that support, with the mayor saying it needs to be a “community response” to find meaningful daytime activity.