'Angry and ashamed,' Overdose Prevention Ottawa packing up its tent

Citing the opening of two supervised drug injection sites within a two-block radius, Overdose Prevention Ottawa says it's dismantling its unsanctioned tent site in a Lowertown park.

Supervised injection site popped up in Raphael Brunet Park Aug. 25

The pop-up supervised injection site run by Overdose Prevention Ottawa in Raphael Brunet Park will close by the end of the week, the group announced Tuesday. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

After 74 days, 3,445 visits and countless potential overdoses avoided, Overdose Prevention Ottawa says it's dismantling its supervised drug injection tent and leaving Raphael Brunet Park.

The announcement came Tuesday, the same day a supervised injection trailer behind Shepherds of Good Hope began receiving clients one block away from the tent site.

The decision also came just a few days after the City of Ottawa declined an offer from the province to winterize the unsanctioned tent site, potentially allowing it to remain in the park through the winter.

"It is with heavy hearts that Overdose Prevention Ottawa share that we are closing the service we have provided on the patch of grass located at 307 St. Patrick Street since Aug. 25, 2017," the group said in a statement posted on its website.

"In just over two months, we have accomplished much to make our city safer for people who use drugs, to combat stigma and criminalization, and fix some of the many gaps in the healthcare system. For 74 days, we have operated without any support from any level of government."

5 overdoses reversed, group says

The site was staffed by volunteers and operated through donations from supporters. The group claims that during its time in the park, volunteers managed to reverse five overdoses by administering naloxone.

We are angry and ashamed by the responses by each level of government to this ongoing emergency.- Statement by Overdose Prevention Ottawa

The tent site appeared weeks before an interim site opened in a city-run clinic on Clarence Street. But unlike that site, and the trailer at Shepherds of Good Hope, the tent site never received an exemption from Health Canada to operate, and was therefore deemed illegal.

Nevertheless, despite calls by the mayor, the area's city councillor, the police chief and some neighbours to shut down, the tent site remained defiant.

"Along with our guests and volunteers, we are angry and ashamed by the responses by each level of government to this ongoing emergency," the group said in its statement, singling out Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Coun. Mathieu Fleury and Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins.

"We have long known that the government and health and social services abandon and criminalize people who use drugs," the group wrote, vowing that "Overdose Prevention Ottawa is not going anywhere," and will continue to serve vulnerable people.