British Columbia

Landlord nixes overdose reduction site in Kelowna at last minute

“Unfortunately, one or two people who were just holding out and not even open to conversation … they’re just saying no, it can’t go ahead.”

Site was supposed to open in strip mall on Asher Road in Rutland until 'tenant concerns' arose

Harm reduction supplies provided to users at a pop-up supervised injection site in Surrey. Plans for an overdose reduction centre (different from a supervised injection site) in Kelowna's Rutland neighbourhood have been scrapped for now. (Jared Thomas/CBC)

An overdose prevention site in Kelowna, which planned to open Friday, did not because the landlord changed her mind at the last minute, according to the site operator and the Interior Health Authority.

Living Positive Resource Centre was supposed to operate the site in a strip mall on Asher Road in Kelowna's Rutland neighbourhood.

However, she says, in the days leading up to the opening, the landlord said other tenants threatened to move out if the site opened.

"It's been a huge roller coaster. We've certainly seen a lot of our clients pass in the last year and it's been devastating," executive director Clare MacDonald told Radio West guest host Josh Pagé. "So when we heard we were going to be able to get the service up and running, we were elated."

"Unfortunately, one or two people who were just holding out and not even open to conversation … they're just saying no, it can't go ahead."

Interior Health spokesman Jamie Braman confirmed it was "tenant concerns" that scrapped the plan.

A second overdose prevention site did open as planned on Friday at the former Ellis Street Health Centre.

MacDonald says an overdose prevention site is not the same as a supervised injection site: while people are allowed to use drugs in a private area, there isn't direct supervision from staff.

"But we are very close by, and if an overdose occurs, we are able to step in almost immediately," she said.

MacDonald says a new location will need to be secured for the second site, which may not be on Asher Road.

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Landlord nixes harm reduction site in Kelowna at last minute