Kitchener mayor, downtown councillor push back on SCS location
Registered nurse Sammy Mullally holds a tray of supplies to be used by a drug addict at the Insite safe injection clinic. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Nearly everyone involved in the decision making process agrees Kitchener needs a safe consumption and treatment site.
The disagreement is over where it should be located. The two sites at the centre of the disagreement are separated by just 350 metres.
While the Region of Waterloo Public Health says 150 Duke Street West is the best possible location, Kitchener’s mayor and a downtown councillor believe a location less than half a kilometer away, at Weber and Victoria Streets, is more appropriate.
“Our position throughout the Region-led process with regional staff has been that Duke is not the city's preferred location for a number of reasons,” said Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.
Vrbanovic says population density is one of the main issues he prefers the Victoria Street location.
“This location actually has twice the number of residents currently or over the next couple years,” he says. According to Vrbanovic, the Duke Street West location has about 2,000 residents nearby, compared to 1,000 at the other location.
Ward 10 Councillor Sarah Marsh agrees with the mayor that the vacant lot at the corner of Victoria and Weber Street is more suited for the safe consumption site.
“Because of the vacant spot, it could either be a quick portable to address this issue right away and then make plans for the long term, or it could mean plans for the longer-term be put in motion while a temporary site be located elsewhere in the downtown,” she says.
She acknowledged the need for immediate action, however, calling it “a crisis.”
Region of Waterloo Public Health stands by the Duke Street West location, stating it is the best location suited for the services provided at the consumption and treatment site.
“It was the most supported in that we saw the least number of concerns being mentioned by the community, many benefits being suggested and also mitigation strategies that were suggested that address the concerns,” said Grace Birmingham with Waterloo Region Public Health.
Birmingham adds the Duke Street West location provides a better opportunity for primary health care, access to treatment on-site and access to a variety of services that may be beneficial.
The Region’s Community Service Committee approved the Duke Street West location earlier this week. The City of Kitchener is holding a public meeting Monday before the final Regional Council vote.