Needles at the playground next to École Pauline Haarer are a safety concern for the city.
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong, chairwoman of the City of Nanaimo’s public safety committee, promised to raise the topic at that table after a resident voiced concerns at Monday’s council meeting.
Discussion about needles at the Comox Park playground – city land adjacent to the the elementary school grounds – came up during debate about provision of public shower facilities for homeless people.
Nanaimo resident Alison Evans, whose nine-year-old daughter may have been pricked by a needle recently, said she wasn’t opposed to the public showers at Caledonia Park but felt they needed to come along with more safety measures at nearby locations like Bowen Park and Comox Park.
“I’m here tonight to ask that while you are making arrangements to help our homeless community, that you do not overlook the need to acknowledge the ramifications of such on the surrounding community, especially that of children who have not even had the chance to make many choices in their short lives, let alone the choices that would bring them in harm’s way,” Evans said.
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She said she’s concerned with “the lack of efforts being put forth by the city to keep our children safe,” noting that school staff clean vomit, feces, cigarette butts, empty liquor bottles, condoms and drug paraphernalia from the grounds next to the school on a daily basis.
Councillors generally agreed with the resident’s assessment.
“What we’re seeing right now is far worse than anything I’ve ever seen…” said Coun. Gord Fuller. “Long-term plans for schools and parks [needs] to be done. We really need to revisit this whole situation.”
He said educating drug users about safe needle disposal and providing personal disposal boxes are useful steps.
Armstrong suggested the city has to look at the problem at a broader level, too.
“That’s why we’re trying to find provincial and federal dollars to help us with this issue,” she said. “As a city, we’re taking a few proactive steps to look at getting housing, we’re looking at modular housing, etc. That’s how it’s going to help, is when we get more of the users not using, then getting them off the street.”
Evans said long-term solutions won’t help keep her children safe in the short-term.
“You’re right, this problem has increased 10-, 20-fold and it’s a serious issue…” said Coun. Diane Brennan. “This is a problem that we have got kind of buckle down and get to work at.”
Though Armstrong said the resident’s concerns would be taken to the public safety committee, no motion was made to that effect.
Island Health’s chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick told Black Press last week that the health authority considers needle pricks a low risk to the general public.
If it happens, it is recommended to allow the wound to bleed freely, quickly wash the area with soap and warm water, do not squeeze or bleach the injured area and call the Island Health communicable disease program at 1-866-665-6626. A visit to the emergency room is recommended within two hours for treatment and follow up.
-files from Don Descoteau/Black Press