‘I want to do it right the first time’: Downtown councillor wants city to rescind support for drug consumption site location
Construction of a Consumption and Treatment Site (CTS) in Windsor is humming along — with a targeted opening of March for what’s being called “SafePoint.”
But at the eleventh hour, the city councillor for downtown wants his colleagues to consider a site different than the one narrowly approved by a previous council in 2022, at 101 Wyandotte St. E.
“I am in full support of a Consumption and Treatment site. But I want to do it right the first time. And I think that we still have an opportunity to do something better for the community,” said Ward 3 coun. Renaldo Agostino.
The process to open a Consumption and Treatment Site started in 2017, led by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, in consultation with community partners. It’s meant to be a safe space to use drugs under supervision and reduce harm and overdoses.
Agostino will bring a notice of motion to council Monday, Jan. 30 asking council to rescind support of the Wyandotte Street location.
Agostino said people have questioned the timing, but points out that he campaigned on the idea of moving it after hearing the concerns of residents and business owners about the impact of a “safe injection site” at that location.
“I'm going to do better I work harder and I want everyone else to do just as much as I can do to get this, not right to get it, but perfect,” he said.
Agostino is suggesting a better location could be tied into the new Homelessness and Housing Help Hub (H4). The city is in the process of identifying potential locations for that hub through an expression of interest, which was issued Thursday.
If council approves the motion to rescind support, Agostino wants the city and health unit to meet to talk both short and long-term solutions.
“Ideally we live in a world where we don't need it at all, but we do need it, we know it works,” said Bob Cameron, the executive director of the Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative. “There is no perfect site. This is a very, very good site.”
Cameron — who was part of a grassroots movement advocating for a CTS — fears if the motion is approved by council, this will cause an extended delay in providing the service.
“If it's connected in with the city's concern about redeveloping an H4 at a new site for that, we know that’s a few years down the road,” Cameron said. “To delay it that long, I don't know how many lives would be impacted.”
Brandon Bailey has long advocated for a safe consumption site.
“Trying to push it backwards is just gonna cause more people to die. It's really that simple,” Bailey said, noting the numbers don’t lie: A record 86 people died in 2021 from drug overdose.
“Please stop trying to stall things,” he said. “I'm sick and tired of burying of everybody I know.”
Neither the province nor the federal government has given final approval for the site, according to the Windsor and Essex County Health Unit (WECHU).
WECHU issued a statement about the notice of motion, saying there has been four years of “extensive consultation” involved in selecting the proposed location.
“The WECHU is aware of the notice of motion put forth regarding city council’s support of the SafePoint consumption service located at 101 Wyandotte Street East. Extensive consultation on the site spanned over four years and involved over 3,000 interactions with neighborhood residents, businesses, and stakeholders, including a series of Town Hall meetings which took place this week,” the statement read. “We welcome members of our community as well as our media partners to review details of these consultations at www.wecoss.ca/cts. We look forward to continuing the education process for our elected officials and members of the public related to this important service.”
Agostino says in the short term, a mobile bus could serve the need.
“I want to get it right the first time. So I understand that there's going to be a delay. I get it,” he said.
A majority of council must approve the motion Monday in order to rescind the city’s support.
FULL NOTICE OF MOTION
The following Notice of Motion will be presented at the Monday, January 30, 2023 meeting of Windsor City Council:
Moved by Councillor Renaldo Agostino, seconded by Councillor _________________
Whereas a previous City Council approved a location for a safe injection site at 101 Wyandotte Street East;
Whereas the approved site was put forward quickly after the Windsor Essex County Health Unit failed to secure a lease at another location - 628 Goyeau Street;
Whereas consultation for the Wyandotte Street location was considered problematic by many affected residents and businesses in the surrounding area;
Whereas there is ongoing and significant concern about the impact of a safe injection site at the Wyandotte Street location;
Whereas the Wyandotte Street location is directly across the street from a McDonald’s Restaurant, and a major hotel and other businesses, AND the entrance/exit of the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel;
Whereas many other options exist to provide safe injection services in the city that will better balance the needs of users, business owners, and residents;
Therefore be it resolved that City Council rescind its support for the past Council decision to approve a safe injection site at 101 Wyandotte Street East and that notification be sent immediately to the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, Government of Canada and Government of Ontario.
Therefore be it also resolved, the City Council request Administration work with the Windsor Essex County Health Unit and report back on alternative short-term and long-term options including mobile service delivery and inclusion in the permanent Housing and Homeless Help Hub.
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