Nanaimo Area Network of Drug Users closes overdose prevention site

Chains turn away those utilizing the space offered at the former site.

The Nanaimo Area Network of Drug Users — or NANDU — has decided to shut down its drug overdose prevention site on Nicol Street.

They’d been running the site for almost a year but after Nanaimo City Council designated it a nuisance property last month, its operators have decided to change course.

From her house overlooking this drug overdose prevention site, Vivian Johnson has seen a change. Tents have been removed and the amount of traffic has dropped.

“I felt sad. I felt they should’ve had more support,” said Johnson.

She says her feelings have been mixed since the overdose prevention site opened. At first, she was upset by the noise and problems the site brought to the neighbourhood but as time went on she felt the problems were subsiding, and that the positives were outweighing the negatives.

“I’m convinced they’re saving lives over there.”

NANDU opened the site in March of 2022 and it grew to an average of 200 visits a day.

Back in January, at the urging of neighbours and a string of police calls, Nanaimo City Council designated the property a nuisance. Not long after that, those running the site say they made the difficult decision to stop providing their services to drug users.

“We’ve been doing a lot of cleaning, trying to get everything tip-top. We were going to open again but that’s not really going to happen now,” said Sara Edmondson, a NANDU committee member.

“It’s a shame because we’ve already lost some people that used to come here on a daily basis so we’re quite sad about that.”

In a statement, the City of Nanaimo says it’s been in daily contact as NANDU has brought the property into compliance.

“The city has received several complaints very recently, but is giving NANDU and the property owners reasonable opportunity to address any outstanding issues prior to further enforcement or charges for nuisance abatement,” said Dave Laberge, Nanaimo’s manager of community safety.

With their lease expiring at the end of February and a new provincial overdose prevention site running in downtown Nanaimo, NANDU has decided to move on.

The group is hoping to find a new location somewhere, and have been looking at a few places but have yet to find any leads.

NANDU says they’re hoping the city will welcome their reopening elsewhere, say that since they stopped providing overdose prevention services here, lives on the streets have been lost.

In a letter announcing the closure of it’s drug overdose prevention site Friday, NANDU says now that it sees a start of a permanent overdose prevention site in Nanaimo, it will focus on “other essential services that still aren’t available, in particular a safe supply of opiates and other substances for people who use drugs in Nanaimo.”

It says NANDU will continue to work with all organizations at the provincial and municipal levels to make sure the needs of the community are met.

NANDU letter

NANDU announced it’s closing its Nicol Street location Friday.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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