Vulnerable people who frequented the harm reduction bus parked weekday afternoons in the Empress Lane area now have farther to go for services.
That is unless they are already heading to the Salvation Army, the new location for “The Bus” that was parked downtown for the last five years.
And while there has been anecdotal complaints about the relocation from those who use the The Bus to access needles, condoms and other harm reduction materials, including information and support, city hall says it’s for the best.
“During the time when the homeless camp had formed in the Empress lot, [city] council asked staff to discuss with the partners if this was the best location, or whether a possible relocation of the Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS) bus with service providers was a preferred option,” Mayor Sharon Gaetz said. “We wanted the bus to be in the best location possible in order to increase positive points of contact with our vulnerable population.”
Operating since 2005, the bus provides harm reduction supplies to people in the Chilliwack, Hope, Agassiz, Yale and Boston Bar areas.
“The Bus allows participants to request health, employment, detoxification, or treatment services referrals to appropriate resources without having to visit one of our centres,” according to the PCRS website.
Some have complained the new location at the Salvation Army is “out of sight, out of mind” and it is now farther away from those who use the services in the downtown core.
Gaetz, however, said the city is pleased to see PCRS and the Salvation Army work together on the relocation plan, and that the parking lot is a better spot.
“We want to see vulnerable people in our community take advantage of the services that are available and connecting them to those services is a priority,” she said.
Gaetz added that council continues to advocate the provincial government for expanded detox treatment beds and services, something badly needed in Chilliwack.
“This will not only assist those who wish to get off of drugs but will result in a reduction of crime that is connected to drug use.”