Winnipeg's hidden 'meth camps' a sign of drug addiction struggle
Published Sunday, July 7, 2019 1:05PM EDT
While authorities in Winnipeg search for long-term solutions to the meth problem in the city, it’s clear the issue is having an effect on day-to-day life.
A short trip along some of the city’s trails and pathways reveals a number of so-called “meth camps” where people with drug addictions live and use the drug.
Local outreach workers try to check in on the camps every day. They say they’re seeing them spring up more frequently than in the past, and seeing them house people who had not previously needed social services.
“These aren’t people that have been chronically homeless,” Marion Willis of outreach group St. Boniface Street Links told CTV News.
Meth addiction doesn’t just leave people out of housing. It can also cause them to suffer hallucinations, delusions and paranoia – potentially leading to violent and unpredictable behavior.
Fears of this violence have helped galvanize public support in favour of action on the meth crisis. So has data about the strain meth is putting on public services. Winnipeg police saw a 900 per cent increase in meth possession charges laid between 2013 and 2017, while the city’s hospitals saw a 1,700 per cent increase in patients coming in under the influence of meth during the same period.
“We have a crisis in communities across Canada, including Winnipeg, regarding meth,” Mayor Brian Bowman said.
Bowman wants help from the provincial and federal governments in tackling the crisis. With both senior levels of government facing elections this fall, though, he’s also seeing what the city might be able to do on its own.
A federal, provincial and municipal task force issued 22 recommendations to tackle the problem in late June. Many of the recommendations had a clear long-term focus, with some of the more immediate suggestions including increased hours for drop-in addictions clinics, the creation of a centralized needle distribution program, and improved telehealth services.
Bowman said he was hoping to see more immediate, short-term measures. He is considering cracking down on the scrap metal trade, perhaps by requiring ID for sellers, and also wants to look at setting up supervised consumption sites, which was not one of the 22 recommendations.
“We know unsupervised consumption is killing people in our community right now,” he said.