Youth workers in Edmonton say they are dismayed to hear that three men face charges for allegedly providing free samples of base cocaine to young people last week.

“It breaks my heart that these kids who desperately want help, can't get it, but they can get cocaine for free,” said Deb Cautley, executive director of Youth Empowerment Support Services (YESS).

“These kids work so hard to change their lives and then some jerk comes along for his own gain and screws it up.”

Police say the samples were handed out last Wednesday and Thursday from the window of a white Dodge Ram pickup truck parked near 103rd Street and 83 Avenue in the Old Strathcona area.

“They had half-gram packets of base cocaine, so powdered cocaine, and on the back of the packet was their contact information," said police spokesman Scott Pattison.

"Very brazen, very out there."

Pattison said the neighbourhood attracts a large number of young people. The location where the men allegedly handed out the samples is close to two centres that offer services to street youth, including YESS.

Tamara Joanette, 19, a former drug user, said the drugs circulating around the neighbourhood make it difficult for those who have kicked their habit to stay clean.

“I was doing meth for about almost a year, and I've been clean for two and a half months now, “ she said.

“It's like really hard for me because I'm around them and I can smell it."

Three men in their 20s are charged with trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking and living off the proceeds of crime.