The Streets Are Not Safer

It’s 9:23 a.m. on Wednesday. The street is not silent as cars and bikes stream by on this hot summer morning..
   A young woman sits quietly on a metal bench in the shadow of the condominium across the street, knapsack across her lap and lighter in hand, the small flame heating up whatever she has in her hand. An older guy stands over her, looking down, syringe in hand, oblivious as I walk by.
   The street corner is littered with take-away coffee cups, plastic bottles, bags, blue straps and used syringes.
   This has become a common street corner scene in downtown Toronto.
   Last Sunday, about 8:30 p.m., I watched one man help another man find a vein on the same sidewalk bench, and then stick a needle in his arm.
   Sure enough, the needle was there the next morning, along with others.
   Sadly Sunday evening’s scene was 50 steps away from a safe injection site that offers supervised drug injection by harm-reduction workers. The facility was open at the time, but this did not make a difference to these users.
   It’s sad that any addiction has come to this point.
   It is even sadder that those who chose to use do so on city streets where the remains of their deeds are tossed away in places people, children, and dogs walk regularly.
   There is evidence of hard drug use on these streets pretty much each day. Used syringes are becoming as common as discarded facemasks. I often phone 311 and provide a description and coordinates, often more then one needle at a time, in several different places.
   The next day those needles, or hypodermic syringes, may not be there, but others are.
   Daily I walk these streets, usually early morning when there are fewer people out and about. Social distancing is easier. Daily exercise is necessary.
   Each day I become more concerned for my safety and for that of my neighbours.
   When the safe injection site opened, much was said about this facility making the streets safer.
   What we have seen is an influx of traffic.
   The streets are not safer; not for those who pass by.

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