In the almost three years it’s been working in the downtown core and West Quesnel, the Clean Team has picked up 4,437 syringes and 2,078 large bags of garbage.
“We pick up probably every day two to three big bags each on the west side and five to 10 big bags of garbage a day downtown,” said program co-ordinator and founder Jenny McDougall. “Most of that’s just normal litter. We find syringes, but they are in our target area and they are less than when we started.”
The Clean Team has started offering naloxone training, and McDougall says they recently provided the training for the entire staff of WorkBC.
They are also giving out sharps containers with their phone number on the back, and a Clean Team member will go pick up the container and give business owners a new container once a week. While doing this, they also offer information about how to safely dispose of sharps.
McDougall says a big focus for the Clean Team is training.
“We’ve trained our volunteers and employees and train people to do naloxone training, first aid, respectful language, basic computer skills,” she said. “We are doing conflict interaction and how to manage hostile interaction. Pretty much any training that pops up through a webinar or through the community, we’ll do.
We recently did a peer engagement with our team and people we know to be homeless who might be using about safe disposal — they had some really great ideas, so we are going to be supporting them in these needs.”
McDougall says they also help people find housing, open a bank account or get their identification to help them take steps to move forward.
“We do try to support them to get on their feet again and maybe get another job in the future that they might like,” she said.
McDougall says they are regularly in contact with about 26 local businesses, and they communicate with Bylaw Enforcement and with the Quesnel School District.
McDougall says they’ve been cleaning up around parks and places where kids go, and part of their engagement is encouraging users to not leave syringes and needles around those areas.
McDougall says the Clean Team is currently funded for four people to work two hours a day for four days a week, and they have about five volunteers who volunteer regularly.
“We’re currently looking for more funds,” she said.
“Right now, we can’t cover the areas we are called to. We’re looking for more funding to do more areas. We would like to do Two Mile Flat, South Quesnel, and we would like to do an afternoon sweep after school.”
The main support for the Clean Team comes from Seasons House and the Quesnel Shelter and Support Society.
“We also work very closely with the Coalition of Substance Users of the North (CSUN), and some of our Clean Team are members of CSUN as well, and they are a huge support to us,” said McDougall. “I think both CSUN and the Clean Team are giving our local peers opportunities to make money legally. Seasons House supports CSUN doing that too.
“These programs are changing people’s lives. I know the Clean Team and CSUN both changed many people’s lives for the better. Connection is key, making sure people are valued. It gives them a purpose. Not only that, but it shows people in the community that people are doing this work.”
McDougall says they’ve probably had 12 to 15 people who have volunteered every week during the past three years, and many of their volunteers have been with the Clean Team since the beginning.
“That’s another part that’s been really great — they are showing up every day and sticking with it,” she said. “The people who have the experience with drug use are the ones who are cleaning up. I like that.”
McDougall believes there would be less for the Clean Team to pick up if there were safe places for substance users in the city.
“I think the amount of needles and drug paraphernalia left in the community would dwindle to very low numbers if we had a safe consumption site or an overdose prevention site,” she said. “People would much rather use indoors if they had the opportunity.”
McDougall says they are working hard to get more of the silver boxes that are cemented into the ground put in so people can use those to discard syringes. The are currently four, and she says they are working to get two more in the community.
“Now we have another area on the west side, the CSUN office, where people can bring their old supplies, so hopefully that’s going to be helpful,” she said.
McDougall has noticed that since the CSUN office opened at the end of August, more people have been coming in and wanting to help.
“Without the Clean Team, where would we be?” wondered volunteer Louise Wannop. “This has made such a big difference in this community.”
McDougall says they are hoping to do another big Spring Cleanup this year, and they are hoping to get more partnerships so they can make it a bigger event with more people.
For more information about the Clean Team, contact McDougall at 250-316-0806.