THUNDER BAY – Over the past months the depth of the issues with addiction continued to be visible in the downtown Fort William neighbourhood. Empty bottles, broken glass, mouthwash, hair spray, and hand sanitizer bottles are plentiful, are despite efforts to clean them up, becoming very obvious.
Overall, from a purely observational level, there appear to be fewer needles downtown than in previous years. It is possible that a decision to distribute smaller numbers of needles that the bags of twenty in previous years has reduced the number of unused needle discards.
“The vast majority of people who inject drugs dispose of their equipment, including syringes, responsibly,” said Cynthia Olsen, Thunder Bay Drug Strategy Coordinator. “However, some needles that are often unused are discarded on the ground, and may be uncovered as snow melts.” If a discarded needle is found, or a container of needles needs to be picked up, residents can call Superior Points at 625-8831 or 625-7996.
Alcohol and Intoxicants Remain Top Issue
Over the past week, there have been an noted increase in quality of life calls. Through March just in downtown Fort William, there have been 73 Quality of Life incidents that required police to attend. Police often attend scenes where the initial issue of intoxication is a factor that contributed to an assault, or other more violent incident.
The impact of alcohol can not be overlooked. Its impact on the downtown and local businesses is hard to measure, but is a certain factor in making it harder to keep going for some entrepreneurs.
Frontline police officers and paramedics are often put in the position of social worker, addictions worker, and sometimes baby-sitter. Assistance for people in distress from intoxication has become one of the top calls for officers responding to calls in the Fort William downtown.
Some business owners have started to call in all of the incidents happening in front of their businesses. This is likely to result in greater call numbers.
Alleys and small nooks behind businesses often become places where people gather, and even though cold weather is a factor, where they sleep as well. Sometimes within site of Shelter House there are people living in alleys and at the back of businesses. Their level of intoxication preventing them from being allowed in the shelter. Many have a history of aggressive behaviour while under the influence of intoxicants.
As spring arrives in force, and the snow melts, broken glass, needles and the mess of winter is very apparent.
Dealing with the situation is a task that likely will take the combined resources of many partners.
It is far easier to witness the problem than solve it.
If solving the issues of addiction, intoxication and homelessness were simple, likely it would no longer be a factor.
Thunder Bay should set a goal of becoming a community where real efforts are made to lead in solving these issues.