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Multiple overdoses, syringes in neighbourhood falls on shoulders of concerned Kelowna woman

Overdoses on streets of Rutland around supportive housing have increased since opening
Photo of drug administration supplies from Rutland community. (Submitted)

When heading out for a walk around her Rutland neighbourhood in Kelowna, Shelly always makes sure to bring naloxone, a sharps container and gloves.

Over the last three months Shelly (name changed for safety concerns) has administered naloxone eight times.

Shelly explained that receiving a dose of naloxone is unpleasant and there is a risk that people wake up angry.

She said that people have woken up from an overdose swinging and yelling at her, and it has forced her to re-evaluate if she wants to continue to put herself at risk to help others.

“I feel an overwhelming responsibility for everyone,” she said to Capital News while on a walk around her neighbourhood in Rutland.

During the short walk, Shelly picked up five syringes and multiple broken glass pipes, which are used to smoke crystal meth and crack.

She said that she feels the urge to protect the people experiencing substance use disorder, as well as those living in her community who are exposed to improperly discarded syringes, used drug paraphernalia and human feces.

Shelly said she noticed an increase in litter related to substance abuse after supportive housing opened a block from her house.

Health House, one of the residences near her home, is managed by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) of Kelowna. Hearthstone is managed by the John Howard Society. Both residences provide housing for people experiencing homelessness and welcome those experiencing substance use disorders.

CMHA CEO Mike Gawliuk said that he encourages people to reach out to the CMHA with concerns regarding the supportive housing buildings in their neighbourhood. He said that he was not aware of the safety issues that residents in Rutland are experiencing.

He also noted that there has been an increase in the unhoused population in Kelowna and an increased demand for supportive services.

Gawliuk said that their outreach team and support workers at the Bridge in Kelowna work with those experiencing homelessness to secure safe shelter.

He said that the outreach workers are very responsive and want to ensure that everyone in the community feels safe.

Shelly is not opposed to the supportive housing being in her neighbourhood. She said that she would even welcome the opening of another centre, as long as it operated with enough staff to properly help those struggling with mental health and substance use disorders.

She said that she also fears for her own safety but has decided that she is not willing to give up on people who need help, and her community.

“The people on the streets are still people. The people that live here are people. We need to find a balance,” said Shelly.

READ MORE: Harm reduction kits to be available for delivery to Central Okanagan homes

READ MORE: New program shows real-time availability of shelter beds in Kelowna


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
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