The dispute has been going on since the site opened, but escalated when Doug Hamilton, owner of Hamilton’s Carpet One Floor and Home began to post surveillance video online from the back of his store. He says his cameras have captured activity such as drug use, prostitution, violence and sexual relations.
Director of Programs for ARCHES, Megan Williamson says the site has agreed to meet with Hamilton to hear his concerns. She says “we are going to try and continue to support our neighbours in the best way that we can.” Williamson also commented on why the site distributes needles, rather than having a needle exchange program. “Needle exchange is an antiquated practice that is scientifically proven to not reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C.” she says. “What we do instead is highly encourage people to return our needles, and many are good at that.” Williamson also says that when crews are sent out to collect needle debris, they return with more needles than what the SSCIS distributes.
Protests for and against the SSCIS took place on Saturday afternoon. The Facebook group “Lethbridge Needle Crisis Support Group” which organized the counter-protest say that the concerns of citizens are not being heard by Mayor Chris Spearman and city councillors.
Spearman responded by saying “The complexities that have now happened in our city is because we don’t have the services that the city needs. So, when we do receive those services, they will have to have a location.”
ARCHES says that in April 2019, the site saw an average of 673 visits a day, making it one of the most used facilities of its kind across the globe.