Council reaches 'compromise' to open SafePoint on time, but will still consider new long-term location
After days of controversy over a motion to rescind council approval of the location of a consumption and treatment site in downtown Windsor, city council reached a compromise.
Leading up to Monday’s meeting, Ward 3 Coun. Renaldo Agostino was prepared to make a notice of motion for council to rescind a previous council’s support to open SafePoint at 101 Wyandotte St. E.
Under the terms of the compromise that was reached by members of council Monday afternoon, SafePoint will open as planned at 101 Wyandotte St. E. by the end of March.
“There’s no delay. That's the biggest piece,” said Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante after Monday’s meeting. “If we can achieve a compromise where we are not delaying the service in our community — subject to federal provincial approval, which is that of our control, right, but what's in our control is endorsing a site. And so if we can mitigate against any delay, then that is a win for the community.”
Instead, Agostino will strike a site selection committee to choose a new site but cause no delay in opening the current site by the end of March.
“Sometimes you [got to] shake the tree to see where the leaves are going to fall and we shook that tree and you know all of council came together and did what was best for the entire city,” said Agostino, noting council found common ground on a difficult issue.
Agostino reaffirmed he was never against SafePoint, but heard from residents and nearby businesses that it wasn’t the best location.
“So it now begins a new process, but it doesn't damage the old one. It doesn't damage the funding. It doesn't damage anything,” Agostino said. “And more importantly, what it doesn't do is it's not going to cost any single person their lives.”
Over the past three days, a collection of concerned citizens ranging from pastors to harm reduction workers mounted a grassroots campaign to ensure the consumption and treatment site opens on time.
Before the meeting, more than 100 people joined in a rally outside city hall calling on council not to support the motion, with many arguing any delay will result in more overdoses and possibly more deaths.
A record 86 people died in 2021 from drug overdose, according to data from the health unit.
Protestors then filled the gallery at the meeting to learn of the compromise.
Bilal Nasser, who helped organize Monday’s rally, feels their voices were heard and is anxious to see how the process unfolds from here.
“It does seem like they’re pulling back a bit and I think the lesson here is that community organizing, grassroots organizing, people getting out here and showing our voices, it works,” Nasser said. “We’re going to keep fighting for that and we’ll be back in two weeks…the fight is not over.”
There are some procedural steps that still need to happen, according to Costante, who is also the health unit board chair.
He’s convening an emergency meeting of the Windsor Essex County Health Unit Board this week to discuss this latest development.
“If the board of health passes a resolution that adheres to the spirit of what we discussed, we will be moving forward with the CTS site in a temporary fashion at 101 Wyandotte St. East and then empower Councillor Agostino to strike a site selection committee to look at next steps,” Costante said.
That will likely drive a new notice of motion, Costante said, which will be presented to council at its next meeting in two weeks.
“Everyone wants to see the best,” said Agostino. “Nobody wants to see anybody dying.”
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