Needles are found every day in Winnipeg and the Bear Clan Patrol says they need help to clean them up.
James Favel, the organization’s executive director, said they’re already on track to recover 120,000 needles this year.
“We need some supports. We are spending more time picking up needles than we are just about any other thing than we do right now and that’s not right,” he said.
“This is not why the organization started – so we can pick up bio-hazardous waste.”
Favel said he was hopeful when the city was looking to hire a group to pick up bio-hazardous waste like needles.
But that plan was trashed when another part of the proposal – to dispose of homeless tent cities – brought backlash from homeless advocacy groups.
The city worked out a different plan with those organizations that focuses on finding connections to resources, but Favel said there’s still a need for someone to pick up and dispose of needles.
Favel said they’re the right group for the job because they’re filling the gap and collecting them in the thousands.
“It’s not getting done in a timely manner. We have people who want to see this done immediately and if it’s not done in that fashion they’re frustrated so they’re calling us,” he said.
The city said people should call 311 if they find a needle on public property and a crew will be sent out within one day to deal with it. If the needle is on private property, people can contact Street Connections.
Dozens of needles
But the manager of a Winnipeg business said he’s frustrated by the city’s response after he recently found more than a dozen used syringes on the premises.
Mike Rogers, manager of the White Top Drive In, told Global News he found a pile of garbage lying in the Manitoba Avenue restaurant’s drive-thru on Tuesday.
Upon closer inspection, he said he found needles hidden among the trash.
Rogers said he reached out to the city for help, but was told he would have to contact a private firm to clean them up because the needles were found on private property.
“To be honest, I’m incredibly disappointed,” he said.
“We clearly do have a problem with this. I would have thought the city would have jumped at the opportunity to get this off the streets.”
Rogers said that while the needles were found on private property, the restaurant is in an area with high pedestrian traffic, making the presence of discarded needles a big danger.
“It’s a public thoroughfare. People use this to get to the alley. Kids are running through here and riding bikes. We’re in a neighbourhood,” he said.
“Somebody that’s even looking for scrap metal going up through alleys could dig through a pile and poke their hand or arm on a needle. It’s only a matter of time.”
After no luck with the city, Rogers called the Bear Clan Patrol, which showed up and removed the needles within two hours.
“I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “They do such great work in the North End.”
Favel says if you want to deal with it yourself you have to be careful.
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