Photo Credit: Image Credits Left: Alex Dunae | Facebook Right: Google Maps

Community Talks: Shooting Up Near Puntledge Elementary

Should people report to the city?

Facebook posting generates discussion and solutions

We’re starting a new series called Community Talks—a breakdown of topics being discussed by locals that aren’t hitting the news cycle.

In this episode, we’re covering a posting a while ago by Alex Dunae in Comox Valley General.

Drugs and kids should never mix.

But local Alex Dunae says in a Facebook Posting that the line between the two is getting dangerously close at Puntledge Elementary.

Dunae was walking through Morrison Forest towards the school when he ran into someone using drugs next to the old rope swing by the playing field.

He helped the guy pick up his used needles, including one the man had stuck in a tree for safekeeping.

“Tough stuff. If I was in rough shape like this poor guy, I’d want to be close to town but also out of the way of people and the sketchiness downtown. So I can see why they choose Morrison Forest.”

“But it’s also crazy how quickly this forest between two schools has become littered with biohazards and unpredictable people.”

Should we report this stuff? Does the city know?” Dunae adds.

This is far from a new issue—but one that needs addressing.

Social media reports reveal that drug use is affecting kids on a regular basis.

Dunae mentioned he’d seen kids turn back from an outdoor ed class two days beforehand because  a guy “nodded off on a log right at the forest entrance.”

Other community members report similar events.

“Unfortunately, this area has always been a camp. About four years ago, a homeless person died in there, and the kids were the ones that noticed the guy not out of his tent and reported it,” said Lisa Beaulieu in response to Dunae’s post.

Most commenters show empathy for drug users, but everyone agrees that something needs to change.

“It’s so very sad on both parts, our kids that just want a safe path to school, but also our community that needs that extra help that seems hard to find in our city. We need that extra mental health and funding,” said Bonnie Rose Dewitt.

People had different ideas for solutions.

Lisa Wheeler, for example, suggested implementing regular clean-ups.

“Don’t the outreach workers in town go out and pick up paraphernalia? If they do, maybe they’d include that site?”

Others suggest community action.

“Maybe the response is grass-roots … putting up signs reminding users that there are kids here. And perhaps that would create convos with the kiddos about community and compassion for all? It’s right in front of them, so may as well make it teachable,” said Sarah Clark

Others think a more drastic response is the way to go.

One wrote, “Put [the addicts in Morison Forest] on a farm somewhere in the middle of the province. The farm should have full detox and training to run the farm for themselves.”

This idea sounds like the “Shelter Farm” near Port Alberni, which has had a positive impact thus far.

These are all ideas that, with the right approach, could make an impact.

The most overwhelming response to the post, however, encouraged people seeing the same thing to let city officials know what’s happening.

“Report it. A report equals data. Data equals leverage for change.” – Meghan McPherson.

“Please report it. My son hangs out around the area during school time. I will definitely be having a talk telling him not to play around there. Thank you!” Shawna Hart

“Please report this to the City of Courtenay; also SD71. The more reports from reasonable people, the more likely action will be taken.” – John Dacombe

Some commenters expressed frustration with the responses they’ve gotten from the city in the past when reporting the problem.

“Good luck getting hold of anybody at the City. Says right on the 250-334-4441 phone number ‘we don’t deal with drug problems or complaints, call the cops'” – ChadCheri Lewis

So phoning the city up may not be the best way to go. But according to other commenters, emails directly to City counsellors do have an effect.

“I speak to various parts of the City of Courtenay on a relatively frequent basis, and I’ve never received that message. Emailing all City Council members and the CAO is a good start because these are the 8 individuals who ultimately drive decision-making.” John Dacombe

One of these emails even resulted in a new motion to combat the Toxic Drug emergency being passed.

“FYI – Courtenay Council unanimously supported my urgent motion in response to the ongoing Toxic Drug Emergency,” said Amanda Larabie

The motion passed: Stopping Harm Now – Immediate & Urgent Response to inequitable access to Overdose Prevention Services in Comox Valley.

Reaching out will make an impact. And the more people who do it, the bigger the response.