A pile of discarded needles and garbage was cleaned up after a Duncan resident came upon it near the off-leash dog area at McAdam Park. Drug use and discarded needles are an issue plaguing the region. (Submitted)

Editorial: Needle problem makes homeless warming station location problematic

The elephant in the room is drugs — needles, more specifically.

As the temperature dips below freezing, it’s clear that a warming centre for the homeless in the Cowichan Valley is quickly becoming a necessity.

But where it should be opened is less clear.

We sympathize with neighbours of McAdam Park who do not want to see it located there. On the face of it, it’s not a bad choice. There is a city-owned and operated building complete with showers that could be used for the purpose.

But the elephant in the room is drugs — needles, more specifically.

Discarded dirty sharps are already a rampant problem around the city, perhaps especially notable in its parks in recent months.

McAdam Park fields are used by youth sports teams, and already someone has to go around before games and practices and collect syringes from the ground where they’ve been dropped. It is an incredibly sad commentary on our times.

Not all homeless people are addicts, of course, but a terribly high percentage of them are and that reality, and the safety issues that come along with it, cannot be ignored.

There’s also an obvious question to be asked here: why can’t a warming centre be set up and operated out of the Warmland House homeless shelter? It has the same amenities as McAdam Park to recommend it.

It’s been suggested that perhaps it is because some of the homeless have been banned from Warmland House for behavioural infractions and therefore wouldn’t be able to use a warming station opened there.

But any warming station is going to have to have some kind of acceptable code of conduct for it as well, so we’re not convinced that makes a whole lot of sense.

Underlying all of this is the need to address the drug scourge that is blighting our communities. Doing so won’t completely solve the homelessness problem, but it will put a huge dent in it.

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