Selkirk sisters, former drug addicts, work to clean up needle problem
Two Selkirk sisters who cleansed their systems of drugs are now tackling discarded needles and drug paraphernalia on the the city's streets.
Harley Collee and Raven O'Neill started a group called Citizens for a Safer Selkirk, which goes out every Wednesday to gather up the ditched drug items.
Collee said they've been finding many used needles as well as small pouches for drugs, sometimes with drugs still inside. And they're finding them everywhere — downtown, in alleys, in schoolyards, near daycare centres, and on the sidewalk along the main street.
On Tuesday, they found a needle pointing up from the ground near a school.
"This is a change from when we were little. We grew up there all our lives but in the past couple of years we've started to notice these things are lying around," Collee said.
O'Neill really noticed it this past winter and would bury things in snow as she passed by, trying to hide it instead of risking her safety by picking it up. But now with the snow melting, everything is showing up again.
So she and Collee, who has an 18-month-old daughter, decided they had to take some sort of initiative, saying they were concerned for the children and pets walking around.
"The kids are the next generation so they're very important to us. We gotta keep them safe. Their little lives are very sacred," Collee said.
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They created the group and posted about it on Facebook, in case anyone wanted to help out. They now have seven volunteers.
"I didn't think it was going to go this far," Collee said. "I thought we [she and O'Neill] would just go do it and that would have been it."
Public health nurses in Selkirk have provided the group with needle bins. When they're filled up, they're returned for empty ones.
The sisters say the problem with the needles has skyrocketed since the first exchange program started in Selkirk in 2015.
"There's more access to needles now so it's easier for you to do the drugs that need to be injected," Collee said.
However, the program just hasn't been working like an exchange at all, she said.
"When you're high, you just throw your needles around. You don't care," Collee said, speaking from experience as a recovering addict who will be sober for one year on April 1.
She and O'Neill, who has also recently kicked her drug use, hope the program will improve in that regard. They believe it's an important one for the safety of addicts.
But until then, and whenever they are needed, the sisters say their group will be out there, trying to give back to a community that helped them straighten out their lives.