January 24th, 2021

ARCHES to shutter SCS

By Lethbridge Herald on August 12, 2020.

Herald photo by Ian Martens ARCHES has announced that the organization will be ceasing supervised consumption, outreach and needle collection services at the end of the month and expects to vacate the SCS site by the end of September. @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
The announcement by ARCHES it will be ceasing its supervised consumption services and needle collection as of Aug. 31 was welcomed by some business owners in close proximity to the SCS, but is also of great concern to community harm reduction advocates.
A letter obtained on Wednesday by local media sent out by ARCHES to neighbouring business owners dated Aug. 7 confirmed that supervised consumption, needle collection and outreach services will end Aug. 31, and that the organization will vacate the downtown site by Sept. 30.
According to a statement released by ARCHES following media inquiries about the letter, the organization is working with Alberta Health to wind down these services and support plans for service transition.
“With the announcement of the SCS and Needle Debris Pick Up Program being defunded by the Alberta Government on July 22,” the statement reads in part, “ARCHES has worked closely with Alberta Health in order to ensure a smooth program transition for all impacted clients and stakeholders. ARCHES sent notice to the neighbouring businesses of the SCS, as it was important for them to know that needle debris pick-up and walking outreach would not be provided by ARCHES as of Aug. 31.”
The impending closure of the current SCS comes on the heels of a decision announced by the province last month it would be defunding ARCHES as an organization after an audit revealed serious fiscal mismanagement.
According to a statement released to The Herald on Wednesday by the office of Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan, a new mobile supervised consumption site should be operational in the city by next Monday.
“The mobile overdose prevention site, operated by Alberta Health Services, will be operational beginning Monday, Aug. 17,” it reads, “allowing for the seamless transition of clients as the grant agreement with ARCHES for the existing supervised consumption site ends. The site will work with local partners, like the Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Centre, with a heavy emphasis on access to recovery-oriented supports, such as transitional shelter, detox and referral to treatment.”
Some nearby business owners welcomed the ARCHES SCS closure announcement.
The Grey Goat owner Becky Allen says she was effectively “forced out” of her previous location on 1st Avenue South to her current one near Mayor Magrath Drive due to having the SCS in such close proximity to her business only two doors down. She was pleased to see the ARCHES-run facility finally closed in the city.
“I think it’s a good decision,” she said. “It’s kind of what I wanted from the beginning. It was disappointing the way it was run altogether. I feel like they could have had better programs put in place before they just threw it onto the city.”
She just wished the decision to close had come sooner.
“I was at a point where I couldn’t afford to keep the doors open anymore,” she said. “I lost that much business. I either needed to move or I needed to shut down. We dealt with all the leftover drug paraphernalia. There were always needles around the store and in our back alley where we received stock. There was always loitering and people hanging around. Customers were scared to get out of their cars.”
Sukrulla Khan, owner of SK Signs and Graphic Design which sits just across the alley behind the supervised consumption site, said while the SCS did not significantly impact his business in economic terms, he nonetheless was relieved it would be closing due to the social disorder he witnessed every day around the site.
“We see the people who are coming and going,” he said, “and lots of activities going on: yelling and fighting, and police coming and arresting them or interrogating them. I don’t think this (service) benefits the people, or any of us as Canadians.”
While some local business owners may be relieved by the decision to close the supervised consumption site, harm reduction advocates say its closure will lead to more overdose deaths in the city.
Concerned citizen and Sage Clan volunteer Stephnie Watson said what they/them is hearing from their work on the streets with Lethbridge’s homeless population is there has been a significant increase in overdoses and overdose deaths already in the city these past few months as ARCHES has reduced its SCS hours. Watson did not think the province’s plans to bring in a mobile supervised consumption site would be able to keep up with the large need for harm reduction services in the community formerly provided by ARCHES.
“If this were really about helping the people, even with the financials of ARCHES,” Watson said, “the government had the option of coming in and taking it over to make sure the health services would still be provided to these people who need them. Instead, we are now going to be looking at having reduced services. The mobile unit won’t be able to keep up with the services needed.”
Watson is also concerned about needle debris proliferation throughout the city now that ARCHES will no longer be providing needle pick up.
“There are a lot of volunteer groups that go out and do needle collection, but the source of their (clean-up) supply to do that needle pick up had been the SCS,” Watson stated. “Without that source there, I don’t know how some of the volunteer groups are going to be able to get clean needle boxes or know what to do with their dirty needle boxes. There is a huge gap that is going to be developing in our community.”
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Yeah idk what the people advocating to close the SCS were thinking that it would impact the drug use in the city.

The cops weren’t arresting users WITH the SCS open. The cops aren’t going to change that behaviour any time soon either.

THe users moved from the downtown core to around the SCS and idk if you’ve noticed but since the SCS limited hours and is now closing and aplha house doesn’t let people hang around outside the users are back in galt gardens where paladin security allows them to sleep and overdose.

Drug use on the streets has been slowly moving back to meth again.

The SCS was a gateway for people to get into treatment.

The la la land that the anti-SCS crowd lives in is going to be seen out in the open now for what it is.

la la land.

You thought the drug problem was bad?

Yeah, just wait.

It’s already getting worse.

And they’re coming for you.



I. N. Stein

ARCHES has failed on so many levels.
1). It was a terrible member of the community. It believed that its needs superseded those of its neighbours It was openly hostile to any concerns that were brought forward…needles, threats to citizens and employees, feces, etc .etc. etc. were just things that had to be endured for the greater good. You cannot move into an area, even with the noble goal of saving lives, and expect surrounding businesses to sacrifice themselves on your alter of good intentions. It was incumbent on ARCHES to find a way to co-exist.

2). It was utterly devoid of even the most basic management practises. Again, the attitude was that because we’re saving lives we have licence to ride roughshod over any scrutiny and again, any questions about its operating practises were met with scorn and disdain. The most charitable interpretation of this whole fiscal mess is that the board of directors have a level of incompetence that is stunning. The least charitable person would say that the board is filled with a bunch of thieves and fraudsters.

3.) It utterly failed those vulnerable souls it was suppose to protect. Any competent board had to know that this defunding was going to happen. Operating in such an arrogant manner could only end this way and one wonders if it truly was concerned with its obligation of care. It seems that this organization is corrupt at every level.


These sites do not lower the number of addicts or the number of fatal overdoses! The number of addicts in Lethbridge increased as well as the numbers of fatal overdoses, homeless and crime just like in BC where the issues spread like cancer to all the cities with tent cities, a by product, popping up in the Okanagan, Shuswap, the Island, Prince George . . . these sites only enable and increase the deaths by suicide due to the hopelessness, addiction and homeless related diseases and violent crimes while threatening the communities they are in.
Don’t you find it odd that just before the government audit in February, the SCS was reporting 768 people per day to the consumption areas, but after the AB gov put in place oversight after March, the AHS reported only 130 people per day?

Many of us who observed the numbers coming and going knew the numbers ARCHES was reporting to the government were inflated, but now the proof has come out! There should be charges laid for this ‘disinformation’ due the the high costs to the community!

The AB gov put over around $7 million into ARCHES, but there were other donors such as the WHO, the feds, and private donors . . . what the real totals are may never be known!

Imagine if that $8-$10 million pumped into this would have been put into effective treatment programs!

The addicts continued to shoot up drugs all over this city and even in the back alley of the site everyday, in Galt Gardens just 2 blocks away, in downtown back alleys and even in business doorways. It was ineffective because the numbers of fatal overdoses continued to rise and it generated more addicts, spreading into the community just like it did in BC!

Effective treatment and increased law enforcement/deterrents is what is needed.

Many alcoholics fail in there treatments because going to a bar or lounge was a ‘social affair’ where they could laugh and share stories with the ‘boys’ and that type of learned behaviour conditioned them to enjoy that social atmosphere and seek it out more since many had no other social life!
The SCS acted in the same manner and even gave them treats, sometimes pizza as well as their ‘goody bags’ loaded with needles and other drug paraphernalia needed to do their drugs.

Millions were spent on services to compensate for increased issues on programs such as the Watch, the Diversion Outreach Team, the food banks and soup kitchen not to mention increased EMS/fire/police calls.

The issues on the streets were all caused by the cause of the addictions . . . that was the common denominator so putting funds into effective treatment programs in and better judicial and penal processes were have saved this city from the long road ahead to take back our streets and our community that now has a black eye internationallly and lost many of our downtown businesses!

For those of us paying attention and seeing the mess on our streets everyday and the loss of so many young lives in the past 2 years, many First Nations youth who just wanted to be feel wanted and loved and find a new life and were never given the chance for effective treatment programs, but instead were given a ‘social house’ to slowly kill themselves on the drugs made in some filthy illegal lab, it is a prayer answered to see this mad experiment’s doors closed . . . Thank you God!

The award winning programs I researched in the southern US did NOT have safe consumption sites and were by far the most effective . . . the social issues were similar to this country and you cannot go to Europe and say, it works there so it will work here, because we have too many other variables . . . they do not have First Nations and like in the US they didn’t have the slavery issues. You have to look at all the variables!

Let’s get those effective treatment programs up and running in record time and start taking back our downtown and our streets . . it will take a few years, but we can do it!