Bear Clan recovers hundreds of syringes in North End garage
Patrol group searched garage on Flora Avenue with help of Winnipeg police on Wednesday
Winnipeg's Bear Clan Patrol recovered hundreds of used syringes on Wednesday after venturing into the garage of an empty North End home that had been on their radar for weeks.
James Favel, co-founder of the Bear Clan, said his team ran out of needle containers as they searched the garage on Flora Avenue with the help of a Winnipeg Police Service community support officer.
"The groups started to pick up what they could, ran out of containers, started using the pop bottles that were seen there, and then somebody ran back to the centre to pick up some more sharps containers."
In total, Favel said the group filled nine containers with 50 needles each, plus three plastic pop bottles, and left many more behind after the police officer who accompanied them called in help to secure the property.
The group had been keeping an eye on the garage and the driveways of both vacant homes next to it for weeks, Favel said, describing the garbage piled up around the garage. He said he doesn't know who's been using the space, but it appears to have been in use for some time.
He said the needle recovery was "quite a huge find."
"That's a one-off. There's been places where we found a hundred or, you know, hundred and a half, but never that many," he said.
Need to address poverty, substance abuse
Favel said the find highlights a problem with drugs in Winnipeg, and the need to find better solutions.
"There's all kinds of societal problems that are leading to this and we need to stem those problems first before we start pointing fingers," he said.
He wants to see barriers to social services and education eliminated, and the adoption of a harm-reduction strategy like a safe injection site.
"I'm not for IV drug use. But I am for safe injection sites. We have lost several community members over the last couple of years because we don't have that in place," he said.
"I say that if you can save a life then spend the money. Just do that. That's the right thing to do, if you can save a life."
He also wants to see various levels of government do more to combat poverty, which he believes is one of the root causes of substance abuse and crime in the community.
"I mean, there's so much that goes into, you know, being in such abject poverty that there's no hope, people give up," he said. "They start doing self-medicating, committing crimes."
With files from Danelle Cloutier and Ismaila Alfa