Finding over 400 needles on the streets of Regina in one night was the last straw for Patty Will.
Will, a grandmother of three, has been picking up needles for years.
She started picking them up from her yard when neighbours in her North Central neighbourhood threw them there.
From there, she started picking up needles around her block.
“I said, ‘If I’m already doing this, I might as well clean up my area,’ and I started doing my own two-block radius,” Will said.
She would tell neighbourhood kids, including her grandkids, to always wear shoes outside. If anyone found a needle, they knew to come to her house and she would dispose of it.
Will began volunteering with White Pony Lodge, but because it’s a foot patrol, volunteers can’t reach all areas of the city.
So on Monday, Will got in a vehicle with another volunteer from White Pony Lodge, Wade LeCaine, and they went to patrol new areas. That night they picked up 438 needles.
“It was the last straw,” Will said.
From there, LeCaine and Will formed Queen City Patrol.
The two patrol back alleys with their vehicle and flashlights. If they see any items associated with drug paraphernalia or drug use, they’ll go through the garbage.
“If we find something we continue looking until we can’t find any more, then we continue onto the next stop,” Will said.
By using a vehicle, Queen City Patrol is able to make a bigger impact.
“We know there’s other areas of the city that needs this patrol as well, so with driving it will cover the other areas as well.”
While finding needles on the street is a common occurrence, Will said they usually find more close to days people are issued cheques.
Even with picking up hundreds of needles a night, Will says they’re only making a “small dent” in what needs to be picked up.
She would like to see Regina open a safe injection site, as Will believes it would encourage people to safely dispose of their needles.
There are only two outdoor public needle drop off locations in Regina: the alley behind Core Community Park and the alley between the 1100 block of Cameron Street and Garnet Street.
Queen City Patrol is hoping to eventually add more needle boxes throughout Regina.
Next week, the new patrol group will start mapping out areas that need to be cleaned.
“We would like to have groups of cars. Two in North Central, two in the downtown core, and two in the east end and we’ll go two or three times a week and just see what we can do and just go from there,” said Wills. “This is just the starting point.”
As for why a grandmother of three spends her time picking up needles one by one? It makes her feel good.
“It gets me walking, I get fresh air, and it feels good to clean up the streets,” Will said. “It gives me a really euphoric feeling knowing I’m taking all these needles off the streets.”