Head of Vancouver area BIA urges tolerance of Supervised Injection Sites in Kelowna

"If anything, it's bringing any sort of unwanted activity into a safe space," said Landon Hoyt of the Hastings Crossing BIA.

Kelowna’s downtown business owners should welcome the proposed Supervised Injection Site on Leon Avenue, says the executive director for a business improvement area near Vancouver’s InSite.

“If anything, it’s bringing any sort of unwanted activity into a safe space,” said Landon Hoyt of the Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Area.

“You want that. People who are using drugs can’t just go off of them. So they need places where they are safe, rather than a dark alleyway.”

That, he said, reduces the amount of needles and errant behaviour people see on the street and, more importantly, the number of drug related deaths.

Hoyt said he also believes any concerns that a Leon Avenue injection site would be the impetus to bringing the Okanagan its own Downtown Eastside and the problems that go with the neighbourhood are overblown as well.

“The Downtown the East Side is the way it is because of a lot of reasons,” he said. “Having mandates to put all the social housing in one area perpetuates the situation in the (Downtowna East Side).”

Kelowna, he said, deals with different issues.

Hoyt’s backing of supervised injection sites isn’t surprising. Dr. Trevor Corneil, with Interior Health, said all BIAs in Vancouver — that existed before the opening of InSite— were against the idea. With time, they too have changed their stance.

Kelowna businesses, however, have come out against the location of the site.

The Downtown Kelowna Association has said the downtown core isn’t the right place.

“It has been the DKA’s number one priority for years to make that area safer for our members and the public, and to revitalize that area for development,” Dan Allen, president of the DKA board said.

“The DKA is seriously concerned that a supervised consumption site at that location will undermine public safety in the Leon area and will present a roadblock to revitalization.”

The Chamber of Commerce echoed that view.

“We have heard loud and clear from our members located downtown that the number of individuals congregating, damaging property and driving off customers is already intolerable. We do not believe that the addition of the safe consumption site will improve public safety or promote a healthy business environment on Leon Avenue,” Chamber president Tom Dyas said in a press release.

Public input for the injection site has been collected for the last month. Whether it will lend itself to the opening of a supervised injection site in the downtown remains to be seen.