Man who cleans streets of syringes says policy needed

A Lowertown man who collected over 1,000 crack pipes and dirty needles that were discarded in his neighbourhood last summer is applauding a city shelter for taking steps that might help him with his efforts.



Chris Grinham said there was a noticeable drop in the number of discarded needles and crack pipes he found on streets, sidewalks and lawns in his area after the Shepherds of Good Hope started a one-for-one exchange policy for syringes, and he’s hoping it becomes a public policy.



Clients must now turn a dirty needle into the shelter in order to get a new, clean one. Grinham — who picks up the items to keep his neighbours from being injured by them — said all sites that provide drug paraphernalia to addicts should do the same.

Otherwise, he said, a child will eventually die or become seriously ill after pricking himself with one of the discarded needles he continuously finds, almost all of which are provided by the municipality.

"There is no way (addicts) are paying for needles when they could spend that money on drugs, because the city is giving them the tools for free."

The Shepherds of Good Hope started the exchange after a recent audit revealed only a quarter of needles being distributed was retrieved. The other 11 services in Ottawa that distribute paraphernalia have not followed that lead, however.

Ron Chaplin, chair of the Ottawa Coalition on HIV/AIDS, said an exchange might work for the Shepherds of Good Hope’s regular clientele, but not for all agencies.

"When there is no way to get a clean needle, they reuse the dirty ones over and over again."

Jack McCarthy, executive director of the Somerset West Community Health Centre, said they recognize discarded needles pose a public hazard and have taken steps to clear them up with disposal boxes at health centres and shelters.


  • Ron Shore, director of the Ontario Harm Reduction distribution program, said research into and experience with needle exchanges indicate that a one-for-one exchange is not successful in keeping down infectious disease rates.