Meth pipes and clean needles: New kind of vending machine arrives in Moncton
Kits for safer drug use, safer sex available free and 24/7 at Ensemble Moncton
People going to Ensemble Moncton for things like condoms, clean needles and naloxone kits can now access them 24 hours a day seven days a week, thanks to a new dispensing machine.
These items, meant to make life a bit easier and drug use less harmful for those who need it, are already available free of charge on weekdays at Ensemble Moncton, but clients can now have access to them even when the doors are closed.
"Drug use doesn't happen in business hours," said Debby Warren, executive director at Ensemble.
She said that the pandemic made it hard to reach her clients, especially when many services temporarily shut down in the spring.
Ensemble hands out safer sex and drug use tools like condoms, masks and sanitizer, clean needles and naloxone kits to about 60 people a day, Monday through Friday from 8:30 until 4:00.
But on the days the office had to close, Warren worried about her clients and the services they were not receiving.
Warren recalled a vending machine she had seen at a conference in November 2019. Even before the pandemic, she knew she wanted one for Moncton, but didn't have the money to buy it.
When the federal government gave out $350 million in April in emergency funds for community groups and national charities that help those made more vulnerable by the pandemic, Warren applied for funding.
'It took 12 months and COVID to get it for us," said Warren.
Warren beams with pride as she demonstrates what the bullet-proof, climate-controlled, cash-free machine can do.
The machine sits on Ensemble's porch at the corner of Weldon and Gordon streets in a well-lit, fairly busy area. Items are dispensed in plain cardboard sleeves and people can take two of them at a time.
The touch screen can also be used to look up different services like food banks, hot meals, homeless shelters and places to go for help with addictions.
Drug use doesn't happen in business hours,- Debby Warren, Ensemble
Warren said the intention is to make sure people have access to the things they need, whenever they need them, but noted that the machine is not meant to replace the interactions staff have with clients.
"It's about connecting people to community," she said.
"And we don't ever want to lose that connection."
Warren said Ensemble staff are moving offices around and renovating to allow for more people to be able to go inside for services.
"We'll be able to open a washroom for them and we'll be able to give them some warm coffee and let them access some of the donations and stuff that we receive," she said.
The machine can currently be used by anyone, but Warren said people may eventually have to get a code from Ensemble staff to access the different kits.