As the snow begins to met away, the executive director of The Bear Clan says the group is picking up a record amount of needles.
“The IV drug use in our community … we were saying this was an epidemic last year and it’s even worse this year,” said James Favel.
The group, which patrols inner city neighbourhoods and has recently set up shop on Selkirk Avenue, said in the first three months of 2019, they picked up 20,000 used needles.
That puts them on pace to pick up 80,000 needles, double last year’s total of 40,000.
“When you consider that 2.1 million needles were given out last year and we only found 40,000, I suppose that’s an insignificant number, comparatively speaking,” he said.
“But in our community, to find 40,000 syringes, is not insignificant in any way, stretch or form,” Favel said.
Favel thinks the needle problem is directly linked to the absence of a safe consumption site.
“So people are doing it on the street. There’s the needle retrieval program through the WRHA but it needs to be more stringent I think,” he said.
“We want to see those numbers drop and any supports that we can get via safe consumption, better needle exchange, more drop boxes, any of those kind of supports are helpful and we want them,” he added.
Take Pride Winnipeg said its crews will also have to deal with the syringes.
“You have to be very careful when you’re getting a needle and picking it up, because if you get any kind of puncture then you could be in trouble. It’s better if you have the professionals come pick them up,” Take Pride Winnipeg Executive Director Tom Ethan said.
If people do find a needle and want someone to come pick it up, they can call 311, or Street Connections.
If people want to pick the needle up themselves, make sure to wear thick, puncture proof gloves, use a pair of tongs and grab a plastic container. Pick up the needle using the tongs and place the used needle syringe side down into the container and throw it away.