Winnipeg daycare hopeful spent needle numbers will drop

Lois Coward with the Niigaanaki Day Care Centre says her staff picks up needles every day to keep her kids safe. She’s hopeful a supervised consumption site outlined in the budget will bring the number of needles down. Morgan Modjeski reports.

You can not walk a few feet in Winnipeg’s Central Park without finding signs of intravenous drug use and while some in the city say more infrastructure to collect spent needles is needed now, they’re hopeful plans for a supervised consumption site will curb the trend around unsafe sharps.

“My expertise is in early childhood education and the people that I hire are also well-versed in that, they’re not in biohazard collection,” said Lois Coward, the executive director at the Niigaanaki Day Care Centre. “The trend seems to be getting worse.” 

Coward says they pick up one to two needles daily and says more infrastructure — like a second needle box or rapid response collection team — is needed. 

“It’s not about accusing anybody of leaving their drug paraphernalia behind, or the homelessness issue that we do have in this city, it’s just about having a safe place for kids to play – and they deserve that.” 

Lois Coward, executive director at the Niigaanaki Day Care Centre, says everyday she and her staff pick-up needles and sharps to keep her kids safe and she’s hopeful a supervised consumption site will help curb what she says is a climbing trend. (Photo Credit: Morgan Modjeski, CityNews)

The province announced in this year’s budget they will spend roughly $3.9 million on a supervised consumption site and harm reduction programming.

A statement from the City says it is typically responsible for picking up needles disposed of on public property, stressing members of the public should leave needles alone and call 311, and a crew will be sent out immediately “to inspect, remove, and safely dispose of it.”

Since April of 2023, The city has received 156 requests for service related to needle pick-up.

“For us, it’d be 100 to 200 a night easily. We fill a container full in a matter of a block-and-a-half depending on the area,” said Kevin Walker, with Bear Clan Patrol.

Kevin Walker with the Bear Clan Patrol Inc. says he too feels like his volunteers are picking up more and more needles, saying more resources are needed on the streets of Winnipeg. (Photo Credit: Morgan Modjeski, CityNews)

Walker says needle pick-up numbers have been trending upwards, and volunteers with his group and others are kept busy, specifically during the spring melt. When asked about the supervised consumption site, he says what happens will be decided by the government, but more resources on the street are critical. 

“I just want to see people get the help they need and the resources they need. However they go about that, is up to the province and the government at be, but they need to get the resources to the people who need it right away.” 

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