A newly-erected tent large enough for a handful of people, some chairs and a pile of overdose-prevention medication now stands in Moss Park, placed there by harm reduction workers who risked arrest Saturday in hopes the pop-up injection site can save lives.
After a spate of overdoses that has left several dead this month already, organizer Matt Johnson of the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance, an advocacy network pushing for drug policy changes, said it was time to act — with or without the city’s permission.
“We’re just here to save lives, like all other first responders,” Johnson said. “We can really make a dent in the number of people overdosing and dying in this city.”
Given the recent spike in overdoses, Johnson said, the organization decided not to wait for permission from police or city officials. “We should have done this months ago… Morally and ethically we can’t hold back any longer. We just have to be brave and go ahead and do it.”
Staffed by a registered nurse, overdose prevention trainers eager to share life-saving skills, and outreach workers tasked with scouring the park for used needles, the tent will welcome anybody who wants to use drugs and administer naloxone, the anti-overdose medication, to those who need it.
Crisis ‘supersedes’ concerns about possession, police say
Toronto police spoke with organizers as the tent went up, ultimately deciding to allow it to operate for the time being.
“As Toronto knows there is an absolute crisis on the streets right now,” said superintendent Heinz Kuck of the Toronto Police Service.
“Although Toronto Police doesn’t necessarily agree totally with an injection site like this popping up, because we do have the aspect of illegal drugs coming and going, the crisis supersedes that at this point in time.”