Regina's White Pony Lodge seeing drastic increase in dangerous items found during patrols
Volunteers have found 19,483 more items this year than in 2016
It has been a busy few years for Regina's White Pony Lodge and they have the numbers to prove it.
Volunteers for the non-profit organization have found 24,445 dangerous items so far this year during their weekly patrols, compared to 4,972 in 2016 — a 19,483 increase.
The patrols are part of White Pony Lodge's efforts to make the North Central neighbourhood a more clean and safe place for residents.
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During patrols volunteers hand out food and water to people in need, while also picking up dangerous items from streets, parks or back alleys.
Those items include syringes, syringe parts and other things used to inject drugs, as well as pill bottles, baggies, weapons and used condoms.
Jan Morier, a board member and patrol coordinator with the organization, said the rising numbers are a reflection of the harsh realities many people are experiencing in the area.
"We feel sad that we're seeing this in the same spot," she said.
"We don't see the human beings behind it, but we know that there are people out there suffering so we can't pass judgment."
She said volunteers have gotten better at finding dangerous items, which is one of the reasons for the increase, but she also believes it's due to ongoing poverty and addictions.
Numbers reflect rising crime rate
Morier said she believes the rise in numbers White Pony Lodge is seeing coincides with the increased amount of reported crime in Regina.
"When people are that desperate and need the drug addiction fed, they turn to crime as well to make the money that it takes," she said.
A mid-year crime report from Regina police showed a 16.5 per cent increase in reported crime from 2018 to 2019.
Regina police Chief Evan Bray said drugs, guns and gangs and three main factors driving the rising crime rate.
"All of this is due to poverty and the desperation that goes with it," said Morier.
Safe injection site
Morier said she would like to see more discussions about bringing a safe drug consumption site to Regina as a way to help people struggling with addictions, similar to what's being set up in Saskatoon and already exists in cities such as Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and many others.
Morier also said she would also like to see more resources for housing and secured income for people in need.
"If all of that came together I'd love to be put out of business, but I don't think we will."
In the meantime, Morier said White Pony Lodge is in need of volunteers to join their patrols on Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. CST until about 9 p.m.
"We're all doing it just because we love North Central," she said.
"Most [volunteers] live here and we just do it because we want to. We want to have that safe and connected community."