Coun. Ken Popove

Coun. Ken Popove

Plea for patience in Chilliwack as needle complaints mount

A city councillor says they are actively seeking solutions, and bringing groups to the table to tackle the issue.

Chilliwack is reeling from a sudden influx of homeless people with addictions— especially the sudden appearance of so many discarded needles.

Coun. Ken Popove, who chairs the mayor’s Housing First Committee, and also co-chairs the Chilliwack Healthier Community said everyone is trying to “get a handle” on it.

It’s getting so bad he’s been approached at his place of work.

“It’s been a tough day. I had half a dozen people in here today who said they were concerned about the safety issues in parks,” he said Wednesday.

That has created a sense of urgency.

“People are mad, we get that,” he said. “We feel their pain.”

He wants the public to know they are actively seeking solutions, and bringing various groups to the table to tackle the issues.

“We know it’s a community problem,” said Popove.

But Chilliwack is not unique in experiencing this surge in homelessness. Every community in the Lower Mainland has rising numbers.

A recent change to Chilliwack’s park bylaws allowed officials to enact specific restrictions about homeless in parks, such as when they can stay, and where exactly, and what structures they can put up.

Several B.C. cities have followed provincial case law in this way and changed their bylaws accordingly to remove bans of homeless camping in parks when there are no shelter beds available.

Council nonetheless feels the pressure to respond to the crisis, as do other agencies on the front lines.

“When you think back, a year and a half ago we never talked about needles. Now it’s all we talk about,” he noted.

Discussions are in the works to bring together all agencies, including those who distribute clean needles, such as the HIV/Hep C Prevention and Harm Reduction Program out of the blue bus.

Popove went to visit the harm reduction blue bus, parked as it usually is in the parking lot behind Five Corners, where clean needles are handed out, and used ones accepted back.

“I found out that in the last quarter, the needle exchange took in 32,000 needles,” Popove said.

That’s 102 per cent above what was handed out. They know because they document each and every one.

“So they are definitely collecting more needles than they give out,” he said.

The needle exchange will also hand out sharps/biohazard containers, and information sheets on what to do when people find needles, and how to safely dispose of them.

Residents’ and parents complaints are the needles being found are flowing to officials at different levels of government.

Despite removal on a regular basis by everyone from bylaw officers, Griffin security, and City of Chilliwack’s Litter Crew, there are still hundreds of needles found around town every week.

It has gone down since the installation of porta-potties with sharps containers.

“It was slow start but the numbers collected from there is on the rise, according to our operations’ crew,” he said.

What does the city councillor attribute as the reason for the recent influx to Chilliwack of transients and drug addicts?

The last homeless count showed there were less than 75 people. Latest estimates puts it at upwards of 300 people. Of course not all homeless are drug addicts, but many are.

“It’s just been a tsunami lately,” said Coun. Popove. “We ask ourselves the same questions, where are they coming from? The answer is the East Coast, up country, or up the valley. We can’t point to one reason or one area. It could be the cheap transit; it could be a few different reasons.”

Kamloops council just voted unanimously in favour of a creating a monitored safe injection site.

“I’m in favour of safe injection site for Chilliwack,” said Popove, adding it would have to be accompanied with funding for addictions counselling.

“It’s been proven effective.”

Such a site would give them a safe place to inject the drugs, but more importantly a chance to get help.

“It’s all part of harm reduction. I think we have to look at this in a different way.”

Just Posted

Raeya Evie Duncan was the 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital for the month of May. She is seen here with her parents Alysha Williams and Andrew Duncan on June 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Baby boom in Chilliwack as record number of infants born at CGH in May

‘COVID babies are coming out,’ says dad of 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital last month

Syringes prepared with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Long Beach, Calif., Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Walk-ins welcome at upcoming G.W. Secondary vaccine clinic

Second consecutive Saturday Fraser Health has scheduled a same-day clinic in a Chilliwack school

Migrating sockeye in the Fraser River August 7, 2007. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
First Nations, commercial, and recreational harvesters join forces to save Fraser River fish

‘We have to work together to rebuild these stocks while there is still time,’ says delegate

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

Dozens of demonstrators gathered in March at the Hope Station House, showing support for preserving the 1916 building. (Photo/Christian Ward)
New reports breathe life into efforts to save the Hope Station House

The documents were presented to District of Hope Council at a meeting June 14

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

Most Read