Discarded needles on Winnipeg’s streets haven’t slowed down during pandemic: Sharp Surgeons

The COVID-19 pandemic has put almost everything on hold in Winnipeg, but there’s one local activity that continues unabated: drug abuse.

Eddie Hendrickson, CEO of volunteer community organization Sharp Surgeons, told 680 CJOB his group has picked up between 250-300,000 discarded needles on local streets over a year in operation, and things haven’t slowed down despite the coronavirus crisis.

“We’ve been out during the whole COVID crisis. Every day we go out and we make sure the needles are picked up on the streets of Winnipeg,” said Hendrickson.

“We’re finding bags on the sides of the street, on the sides of the bins with hundreds of needles, maybe even a thousand needles in a bag at a time.”

Hendrickson said he believes dealers are “pre-fabbing” their needles these days — having them ready to go when the user comes in to buy, so they can do their shots on-site and leave the discarded needles in a bag.

The bags are then left out front where organizations like Sharp Surgeons can pick them up to dispose of them.

It’s a system Hendrickson said can be greatly improved in Manitoba, as he witnessed first-hand during a stay in British Columbia.

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“I lived on the streets in East Hastings for four months on my own money, just to see what they do. They do their shots on the street, they drop their needle in between their legs, and when they come out of it, they pick it up and put it in the bin,” he said.

Sharp Surgeons aren’t the only local group hitting the streets — despite the COVID-19 risk — to clean up discarded needles.

Bear Clan Patrol director James Favel told 680 CJOB earlier in the pandemic that his organization was continuing its work — with modified safety precautions — and predicted unprecedented numbers of needles collected by the end of the year.

“So far, in the first quarter, we picked up over 80,000 needles this year,” Favel said April 20.

“Last year, we picked up 145,000 used syringes all year long… so we’re projecting 320,000 if things stay the same.

“I haven’t seen any appreciable changes for the better. Actually, what we’re seeing is a worsening of circumstances for our community members.”

Hendrickson said his organization is also expecting similar numbers — or even higher.

He cautioned Winnipeggers not to handle any syringes they may see on the ground.

“Please, please call us,” he said. “Do not pick them up during this crisis. There could be COVID on them. Anywhere in the city, we will go and get them.”

Sharp Surgeons can be reached at 431-688-5530.

 

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