Nanaimo City Council has declared an overdose prevention site in the city’s south end to be a nuisance property.
Drug users come to the Nicol Street property around 200 times a day on average, according to the Nanaimo Area Network of Drug Users, which runs the overdose prevention site.
But its future may now be in jeopardy if problems at the site persist.
On Monday night, a majority of Nanaimo City Council voted in favour of designating the overdose prevention site as a nuisance property — which means the cost of any police or fire calls will be charged to the property’s owner.
“The hope is that they can mitigate the impact on the neighbourhood, clearly the hope is the ministry and the health authority will step up and help,” said Nanaimo Coun. Paul Manly.
During the meeting, councillors said they support overdose prevention sites in light of the toxic drug epidemic plaguing British Columbia. But they say what’s happening on Nicol Street is not fair for neighbours.
The site opened in April 2022. Since then, there have been complaints documented in a city report involving congregations of people, yelling, arguments, fights, discharging of fireworks, and the operation of noisy generators — all after the site is closed.
Left: A worn sign marks the NANDU safe consumption site on Nanaimo’s Nicol Street. Right: A public safety group’s video documents after-hours activity at the site.
Police say they’ve been called to the site 14 times during the last nine months of 2022.
“We need senior levels of government to step up and we need NANDU to work on operating in a more manageable way,” said Manly.
A safety group says Nanaimo City Council made the right call and it agrees the province needs to provide more oversight to ensure there aren’t harmful impacts in the community.
“If they can’t do that then it tells us what we need to know about the viability of this kind of model and until now, the province has been really reluctant to even acknowledge and endorse it formally,” said Collen Middleton with the Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association.
A committee member who helps run the site says she was saddened by council’s declaration, but acknowledges changes are needed.
“I just wanted to say thank you for all the support that we have got from the community. We greatly apologize to any of the neighbours who have had any issues with us. We’re trying. We don’t have any funding to do better,” said Sara Edmondson, a NANDU steering committee member.
B.C.’s Ministry of Mental Health says while it provided $80,000 to NANDU in 2021, the organization is independent.
It noted Island Health opened a new Wellness and Recovery Centre in Nanaimo last month, which includes an overdose prevention site.