Street Help says not to blame for squatters, supports safe injection sites
There are renewed calls for safe injection sites in the City of Windsor after neighbours of a burned out restaurant complained about the drug use in the building.
CTV News on Thursday shared images inside the vacant building at 840 Wyandotte St. E. that was once the Le Chef restaurant, next door to the Downtown Auto Service. Both businesses were destroyed in a fire on May 23, 2016.
The site is littered with garbage including used needles, condoms and pizza boxes.
The City of Windsor has started the process to demolish the building. Manager of Inspections, Rob Vani, says it will take place before the end of the year.
But it's not soon enough for neighbours, who call the space a haven for drug users. The area was boarded up after CTV's story aired on Thursday. But the squatters had returned on Friday.
Residents blame the nearby Street Help homeless centre for attracting the wrong crowd to their neighbourhood.
"They do their best to do what they do, but they need to relocate it from the downtown area," says Neil Ozad.
Street Help Executive Director Christine Wilson-Furlonger says that is not fair.
But resident Cheryl Ganney says the shelter is not helping the community.
"She's not counselling anybody. All she's doing is clothing them, feeding them, watering them. There you go, and off they go, and then she closes up and they hang out in front of her place," says Ganney.
"If people are eating here instead of having to commit crime to get food, I think that's what people should be focusing on," says Wilson-Furlonger.
This isn't the first time Street Help has faced criticism but Wilson-Furlonger insists they are not contributing to a problem that is happening in cities across North America.
"There are a lot of people that are homeless because they have mental health issues, other physical issues, financial issues and suddenly they become branded as drug addicts and that's unfair too."
Ward 4 city councillor Chris Holt agrees the issues around homelessness, mental health and addictions is not just a Windsor issue.
Holt supports the calls for a safe injection site, something he believes may solve the problems on Wyandotte Street.
"We need to find a way to help the people that are struggling with addictions, homelessness," says Holt. "Safe injection sites are one way to do it. Regular visits to places like Street Help are a way to do that."
Wilson-Furlonger tells CTV News she also supports a safe injection site. She says they could give health professionals a chance to support addicts.
A survey conducted by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit shows 61 per cent of respondents are in favour of a safe injection service.