Local business owner raising more concerns about Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site

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WATCH ABOVE: Lethbridge's supervised consumption site is finding itself under scrutiny. A local business owner is speaking out about the negative effects he says the site is having on his store. Jasmine Bala has more – Jul 5, 2019

A Lethbridge business owner says the city’s supervised consumption site (SCS) has been negatively impacting his store since it opened in February last year.

Doug Hamilton is the owner of Hamilton’s Carpet One Floor & Home, located right next to the SCS.

“Every morning when I come to work, I find liquor bottles, needles, condoms,” he told Global News in an interview last year. “Just general trash which was never here [before].

“To have the customers just not come because they’re afraid, you know, they can go to Home Depot and walk in and buy a carpet too… not a local business, but a big chain.”

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Since then, Hamilton has installed security cameras on his property and recently started a 24-hour livestream of the footage on YouTube.

Over the past few months, Hamilton has been posting images and videos to his Facebook of SCS clientele trespassing and taking part in what he says he believes is illegal activity on his property — posts that are now unavailable.

READ MORE: Lethbridge business owner says supervised consumption site hurting his revenues, blames clients for litter, loitering

While Hamilton is no longer granting media interviews, he continues to voice his concerns, something that has led to alleged death threats on social media, which Lethbridge police are investigating.

In a statement posted to his Facebook account, Hamilton said that while he supports the concept of harm reduction and recognizes the SCS’ clientele are “hurting and caught in a vicious cycle of addiction,” his actions have been intended to protect his business.

“None of my security cameras point directly to the SCS,” the statement reads. “Rather, they capture people on my property trespassing, loitering and engaging in illegal activity.

“I should not be prevented from making known, and visible, that which is killing my business and threatening the viability of our downtown.”

READ MORE: Lethbridge response to UCP review of safe consumption sites

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ARCHES, the organization that oversees the operation of the site, told Global News that it puts many programs in place to encourage clients to use inside the SCS, such as on-site access to treatment. The organization also said it tries to build relationships with clients.

ARCHES equips clients with sterile supplies in the drug consumption room — the only place they’re legally allowed to use on the property — to reduce the transmission of disease and provide a safe space for use.

However, ARCHES said it is unable to force clients to stay indoors and consume in the drug consumption room.

READ MORE: Usage numbers remain high at Lethbridge supervised consumption site

“We don’t condone illegal activity on our property or anywhere in the community, and we regularly connect with the Lethbridge Police Service and our security to address those issues,” said Megan Williamson, the director of programs at ARCHES.

“We can’t legally detain people or force them to remain inside, but we have implemented several mitigation strategies.”

Some of these strategies include 24-hour security, the community outreach addictions program, a needle debris hotline and neighbourhood relations meetings.

In Hamilton’s statement, he suggests the SCS should take additional steps in reducing its impact on businesses in the area, including “restricting the avenues of physical access to the SCS so that its clientele are not trespassing on private property in the area.”

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READ MORE: Lethbridge supervised consumption site marks one-year anniversary

This is something ARCHES is exploring as an option, Williamson said.

“We’re absolutely willing to look into a fence and we’ve already started the process, but it doesn’t happen overnight,” she said. “We need to look at permits and buildings and cost.”

Williamson added that ARCHES appreciates Hamilton’s willingness to discuss solutions and have reached out to him.

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