Recently, the City of Winnipeg put out an RFP that would see the City hire a contractor to collect and dispose of discarded needles, as well as bulky waste found in what the City views as temporary homeless shelters in Winnipeg. The RFP outlines the scope of work as follows:
SCOPE OF SERVICES
D2.1 The Work to be done under the Contract shall consist of collection and disposal of discarded biohazardous material on City of Winnipeg outdoor public spaced and right-of-ways and other bulky waste found in temporary homeless shelters for the period from August 1, 2019 until July 31, 2020, with the option of two (2) mutually agreed upon one (1) year extensions.
In the RFP, bulky waste is defined as the following:
E5. COLLECTION AND DISPOSAL OF BULKY WASTE FROM TEMPORARY HOMELESS SHELTERS ON PUBLIC PROPERTY E5.1 Further to E2, bulky waste under this Contract shall include but is not limited to items such as:
(b) shopping carts;
It is the position of Main Street Project and its Board of Directors that this approach to dealing with homeless camps and tent cities in the city of Winnipeg is harmful, stigmatizing and culturally insensitive to those experiencing homelessness. By removing these physical structures and personal belongings of people, those experiencing homelessness will be further displaced and left with nothing.
Further, this approach does nothing to address the root causes of homelessness. Main Street Project believes that a more appropriate response and longer-lasting solution to this would be to invest in resources that allow community outreach to take place in an effective and compassionate manner. Having outreach workers who have worked in the sector and who have the knowledge, skill set and experience to approach vulnerable and marginalized populations is essential to building trusting relationships and connecting people with resources that can help them begin the process of moving on from homelessness.
On the topic of disposing discarded needles, it is the position of Main Street Project’s Board of Directors that there is opportunity for education on matters related to the increasing numbers of discarded needles found in public places and the actual risks to communities. Rather than hiring a contractor to pick up and dispose of discarded needles, Main Street Project believes a more effective approach would be to develop a comprehensive communications strategy and awareness campaign that accurately educates the public on the actual risks and potential harms of used needles. This would include a component of educating communities to pick up and dispose of needles themselves, and not only in nine locations in Winnipeg but rather as a city-wide effort.
To be most effective and informative, this communications strategy would need to be developed in consultation with community organizations that are on the front lines of working with people who use injectable drugs through a harm reduction approach. Included in this consultation would need to be organizations that provide services to people living with communicable diseases that can be spread by sharing needles, as these organizations would have the most knowledge and up-to-date, evidence-based information to share.
As a leader in providing services to those experiencing homelessness and addiction, Main Street Project and its Board of Directors is always eager to be involved in discussions and decision-making as it relates to these matters.
You can view MSP’s response to the media here: