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Residents protest proposed safe-consumption site in Richmond

Twenty-six people died in 2023 from suspected drug poisonings in Richmond.
Sheldon Starrett spoke to media about his opposition to a proposed safe-consumption site in Richmond.

A group of residents who live near the Alderbridge supportive housing building came out to city hall to protest a proposal to have a safe-consumption site in Richmond.

This was led by Sheldon Starrett, who ran unsuccessfully for city council in 2022, ahead of a 4 p.m. council committee meeting where a motion to look into getting a safe-consumption site near Richmond Hospital will be debated.

Starrett said he thinks Coun. Kash Heed, who initiated the motion, thinks a safe-consumption site is the “be all and end all,” whereas Starrett would prefer a focus on treatment.

Starrett ran for council with Coun. Chak Au and his Richmond Community Coalition slate, which took a stand against safe-injection sites during the election.

Au was not at the press conference as he had an “emergency meeting” he had to attend, Starrett explained.

Starrett said a safe consumption site is not “suitable for Richmond” and he’d prefer to see treatment and rehabilitation of people who use drugs “before we go down this path.”

The motion from Heed is to look into opening a safe-consumption site, where drug users can use drugs under the supervision of staff. Not only can on-site staff administer overdose-reversing naloxone, but safe-consumption sites also provide a place for drug users to connect to other services, Heed noted.

“This can save lives and provide an opportunity for individuals to seek further treatment and support,” he explained in his rationale for the motion.

“Public drug policies should not push drug users into unsafe areas such as alleys and hidden alcoves, instead they should establish safe places to consume drugs,” he added.

In 2023, 26 people died in Richmond of suspected drug poisonings, according to the BC Coroners Service.

Starrett said people who use drugs should be treated with dignity and deserve help, and treatment should be available to them.

Furthermore, he said opening a safe-consumption site would “enable and extend harms” of drug use.

He reiterated his opposition to the Alderbridge supportive home – which he lives across from – saying crime, public disorder, open drug use and drug dealing have all increased in the area since it opened.

If the motion to explore a safe-consumption site goes through, Starrett said he will start a petition against it.

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