London

Plan for supervised consumption site back on track after opponents lose latest attempt to stop it

The plan for a supervised drug consumption site on York Street is back on track after an Ontario court dismissed an appeal from opponents to the site.

Official says they will work with the community on any concerns they have with the site

The location at 446 York St. will be renovated to follow guidelines set by crime prevention assessment reports, which dictate appropriate fencing, lighting and other factors that are designed to keep the site safe for clients and the community around it. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

The plan for a supervised drug consumption site on York Street is back on track after an Ontario court dismissed an appeal from opponents to the site.

Last fall, Ontario's Local Planning Appeal Tribunal ruled against a group of businesses who were opposed to the site at 446 York St., but the group of opponents appealed that decision. On Saturday, the parties were notified that the appeal had been dismissed, said Brian Lester, the executive director of Regional HIV/AIDS Connection. 

"It felt very good to know that a final decision has been made with respect to the zoning and that it's looking positive that we might end up at 446 York St.," Lester said, adding that there still needs to be approval from the Ministry of Health to move forward with setting up the site at that location. 

Since 2018, a temporary drug consumption site has been operating at 186 King St. while the approval for the permanent location got underway.

The site has allowed clients to use illegal drugs under medical supervision and connect them with recovery services. Lester said in 2019, the service had connected more than 1,200 people with addiction related services.

"We want healthy outcomes for the community," Lester said. 

"The wraparound supports that are attached to this service, [including] support for addiction, mental health, housing and Indigenous-specific supports, all of that interconnectivity, is good for everyone in our community because these marginalized folks are connecting to the health care system sometimes for the first time through the program." 

The group of businesses who oppose the site, which is lead by Drewlo Holdings, Northview Apartments and Burwell Auto, have argued that setting up a supervised consumption site in London's Midtown neighbourhood would lead to public safety concerns, especially for youth who attend the two high schools in the neighbourhood.

Public health officials and city officials have repeatedly said that the site would actually improve public safety in the area.

Lester said that they intend to be a "good neighbour" and work alongside the community to address any concerns.

"As people have concerns, we will respond to them. We've done that at our current location ... and we will bring that with us when we operate on York Street," Lester said.

When it comes to safety measures, Lester said that the site will be renovated by following guidelines set by crime prevention assessment reports, which dictate appropriate fencing, lighting and other factors that are designed to keep the site safe for clients, but also for the community around it. 

Lester said he wants to set up at the permanent site at 446 York St. as soon as possible, and will be contacting the Ministry of Health on Monday to start the approval process. 

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