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Both the municipality and local law enforcement are aware of the needle exchanges. This means no coordinated and public effort to curb the use of dirty needles, no fixed or mobile needle exchanges, no clean crack pipes and no overdose prevention like that provided by Insite's nurse-monitored safe injection space. On the one hand is city council, which remains split on the issue.
Banman and some councillors agree harm reduction is necessary, but only if it includes a detox centre. Meanwhile other councillors voted for the ban seven years ago and believe abstinence is the only real harm reduction. And then there are the service providers and the drug users themselves who want the health services allowed for people with addictions in the rest of the FHA like clean needles and crack pipes. While the bylaw is broken daily, its existence is still enough to prevent consistent, long-term operational funding for user groups and harm reduction services to get clean needles and crack pipes out to drug users.
With a law against harm reduction, financial support for harm reduction services in the city is tenuous. As a result, Abbotsford almost lost its only harm reduction service for marginalized women earlier this month when its federal government funding ran out. The Warm Zone, a safe space for women over 18 who are homeless, addicted, sex workers or in poverty, provides a place to take a shower, eat a hot meal, get counselling, connect with health professionals or just take a nap.
They also hand out clean needles, crack pipes and condoms and dispose of dirty needles. The Warm Zone was a federal pilot project that reached its funding expiry date this year. Approximately women are at risk of losing a harm reduction lifeline if the facility shuts down. In response to the news the Warm Zone might shut its doors, members of the public opened their wallets. But funding for pilot projects is easy to obtain compared to operational funds.
When the federal government provided a list of alternative funds for the Warm Zone to apply for, Giordano says not one of them was for operational funds. From , Shantz operated a needle exchange out of his house and car. After two years of consulting with health experts and local drug users, FHA submitted a harm reduction proposal to Abbotsford city council last May. The plan had two phases. The first phase was 12 to 18 months of community engagement, distribution of harm reduction supplies, and street nursing and outreach for users.