On Aug. 31, ARCHES closed its doors — no longer providing supervised consumption, needle collection or any of its numerous outreach services in Lethbridge.
In the two weeks since, Sage Clan Patrol leader Mark Brave Rock says on the group’s walks through the city to check in on homeless people, members are already witnessing changes.
“We’ve had to adapt our patrols,” he said. “There’s an increase in needles again in the downtown area.”
Brave Rock said he believes city efforts to control the area are resulting in a more widespread problem.
“They’re trying to clean up the Galt Gardens area. However, now they’ve found other places to go sleep, to go do their business,” he explained.
Brave Rock said the team has observed overdose-related deaths increase in the city, as well as on nearby reserves.
Officials from the Kainai Wellness Centre in Standoff confirmed to Global News they are seeing that uptick since ARCHES’ closure.
Brave Rock said in his eyes, both the opening and closure of the facility were done without proper consultation of groups more connected to the community.
“It was decided by people who don’t know what’s going on on the streets — who do not see what’s going on on the streets,” he said.
“They don’t see it, they don’t walk it, they don’t live it and yet they decide.”
Brave Rock said the best thing concerned community members can do is reach out to help with groups like the Sage Clan and take more responsibility for the well-being of the city.
“I would just like them to keep coming out and walking with us… They are underestimating their presence,” he said.