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Crowd gathers to voice concerns about Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site

July 7, 2019

ARCHES, Lethbridge’s supervised safe-consumption and injection site is facing scrutiny both at the site, and online.

Just days after Lethbridge Police began an investigation into death threats against a local business owner, a crowd gathered outside his business to show support.

Tensions occurred in recent weeks between Doug Hamilton, whose business sits directly behind ARCHES, the Supervised Safe-Consumption & Injection Site (SSCIS), and those who speak for the site.

In a post shared via social media, ARCHES says the staff are unhappy of a local business owner who is “broadcasting pictures and videos of our clientele and staff over social media.  Many of these posts clearly identify the people accessing our services.”  They say the images are "deterring people from getting help."

Hamilton says he and his staff have experienced problems with the SSCIS, which include homeless people and addicts defecating, littering, trespassing and having sexual relations on his property.

Hamilton says he installed surveillance cameras around his business, which are visible to anyone who may be walking near or around the store.  The division between him and the SSCIS escalated when he began to livestream the cameras to a YouTube channel.  He has also posted videos to his Facebook account that show the faces of addicts, those who appear to be involved in drug deals, and frequent visitors to the area.

On Saturday afternoon, the Facebook group “Lethbridge Needle Crisis Support Group” held a rally behind Hamilton’s store, which is situated steps away from the SSCIS.

“He’s [Hamilton] been here for over seventy years.  He has a right to be here, and he has the right to a safe property…” says Lyra Angus, one of event organizers.  

But Petra Shulz, co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm, a group of parents who have lost children to drug use has a different perspective.  She says her son, who died of a fentanyl overdose would still be alive, had a site like ARCHES existed at the time.  “Dead people don’t recover” says Shulz as she held back tears.

Hamilton and ARCHES have agreed to meet in the near future to discuss their concerns.