Safe consumption site debate: Mayor, councillor will now back Duke St. location
Published Sunday, April 14, 2019 4:40PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, April 14, 2019 7:09PM EDT
Kitchener’s proposed safe consumption site now has the support of the mayor and city councillors.
On Tuesday the committee tasked with choosing the site decided on 150 Duke Street.
Public Health also backed the location, stating that it offered an opportunity for primary health care, access to treatment on-site and access to a variety of services.
"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.
After the committee’s decision Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Sarah Marsh, who represents Ward 10, both voiced their preference for a vacant lot approximately 350 metres away at Weber and Victoria Street.
They felt it was more appropriate for a safe consumption site.
Vrbanovic said population density was one of the reasons why he supported the Victoria Street location.
“It’s closest to St. John’s Kitchen,” Marsh told CTV on Thursday. “It’s close to transit and depending on what the Region decides to build here, it would be purpose built.”
But on Sunday both Vrbanovic and Marsh released a joint statement saying they would withdraw their motion supporting the Victoria Street location.
The statement, posted to social media, reads in part:
“We have tried to work with the Region and articulate our concerns about the Duke Street site in terms of its close proximity to sensitive uses and residential neighbourhoods. The Region was aware of our concerns well before last week and we were disappointed that those concerns were not taken fully into account.
We continue to believe there is a way to build a suitable consumption and treatment service on the Victoria Street location in a timely manner, but that would require a committed and engaged partner.
Since the vote at Regional committee it has become clear that there is not a political will at the Region to pursue a creative and collaborative solution for the Victoria Street property.
While we continue to have significant concerns with the Duke Street site, we know that a worse outcome than choosing this site, is ending up with no site at all.”
Marsh says in the statement that she will introduce a motion at Monday's special council meeting in support of the preferred Duke Street location.
"What was not evident right away was that 105 Victoria Street would not be a viable location," she said Sunday. "The reports says it is but it's not. So we need to pivot in order to save the chances of a safe consumption and services site in the downtown."
It's not viable, she says, because getting funding for a location with with no buildings is not ideal and the region is not interested in finding a creative solution for the site.
If Regional Council ratifies the decision on Wednesday, they can immediately move ahead with the city's application to the province.