Thousands of used needles collected in one day in Surrey
A project to clean up Surrey streets is uncovering sky-rocketing drug use as discarded needles are collected daily around the city.
Donna Wheeler is a volunteer with the Lookout Emergency Aid Society. The project, funded by Lookout, has Williams and others collecting used needles seven days a week in Surrey.
“I'm one of the people that lived on the streets, I'm giving back to the people that helped me,” she said.
Bloody syringes are a sign of rampant drug use in abandoned buildings and open use on Whalley streets. Two buckets containing 10,000 discarded needles were collected from woods around Surrey RCMP headquarters on Thursday.
“It's just everywhere,” Wheeler said “It's just escalating, it’s doubling it’s tripling it just keeps going.”
In 2015 the team collected more than half a million needles, twice as many as the number found in Vancouver.
The Lookout Emergency Aid Society operates Positive Point, which is the only needle distribution site in Surrey outside of hospitals.
Shayne Williams, executive director, at the Lookout Emergency Aid Society said that while the Downtown Eastside has the greatest concentration of impoverished people, there are also issues in Surrey.
“Both communities have some very big challenges in front of them,” Williams said. “For [shelter housing] for folks that are suffering from addiction concerns, I think the greatest need is in Surrey.”
The Lookout Emergency Aid Society set up Whalley's harm reduction site, after working in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for decades.
Williams said that the issue of discarded needles in Surrey in inextricably linked to low-income housing availability.
“If they cannot find appropriate housing then they are going to be mired with their addiction on the street and it creates more of a community problem, like needles in parks and open drug use,” Williams said.
Discarded needles have also recently been found in other Metro Vancouver suburbs including Abbotsford school yards and front steps in East Vancouver.
Williams said he fears the problem will escalate.
“More people will die. We’ve see an awful lot of deaths on the street,” Williams said. “We’ve lost a lot of friends in the last calendar year and I’m afraid that if we don’t move now on giving people a safe place to use their drugs and a safe place to live no matter if they have addiction concerns that trend is going to continue.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Tom Popyk