News Local

Vancouver community centre closed to homeless after toddler finds needle in washroom

 Glen Schaefer

 City of Vancouver responds to citizens complaints about homeless and drug users using community centres as shelters from the cold at a press conference at city hall in Vancouver, BC Tuesday, January 10, 2017. Pictured is Olympic Village resident and Creekside Community Centre user Devonna Gaglardi and daughter Coco. (Photo by Jason Payne/ PNG) (For story by Glen Schaefer)

City of Vancouver responds to citizens complaints about homeless and drug users using community centres as shelters from the cold at a press conference at city hall in Vancouver, BC Tuesday, January 10, 2017. Pictured is Olympic Village resident and Creekside Community Centre user Devonna Gaglardi and daughter Coco. (Photo by Jason Payne/ PNG) (For story by Glen Schaefer)

A community centre in Vancouver’s southeast False Creek no longer offers nighttime cold-weather shelter for the homeless, after a father told staff his toddler picked up a used needle in a washroom.

Meanwhile, other parents using Creekside community centre told Postmedia that they had seen fights and arguments among those leaving the centre, as parents and their children showed up for morning activities.

Vancouver park board general manager Malcolm Bromley, said "there was an incident involving a syringe, a needle and a child in a washroom”, adding he spoke with the father, and the child was not injured.

The washroom in question was inspected at 7 or 8 a.m. that day, he said, adding that park staff don’t tolerate open drug use.

Bromley said dealing with discarded drug paraphernalia is “at times commonplace, in our parks and sometimes in our community centres”.

However, his decision to put an end to Creekside's nights as a warming-up shelter wasn’t based on Monday’s incident.

Bromley said that in response to the recent extreme cold weather, the park board opened up the Creekside and Britannia community centres at night for people who had nowhere else to go. They later opened up the West End community centre, and this week opened up the Carnegie community centre to make up for losing Creekside. The centres were not providing bedding for those who stayed there.

 

“What was envisioned as a short-term plan has turned into almost a month-long plan now,” Bromley said. “Our staff typically are not geared up to run 24-hour operations at our community centres.”

Temperatures are expected to drop again next week, so Carnegie, Britannia and West End centres will remain open at night.

The city and B.C. Housing have also set up six temporary winter homeless shelters,with a total of 195 beds, throughout Vancouver since November, with each of those to stay open until April.

Devonna Gaglardi, who took her 16 month old daughter Coco to a music class at Creekside Monday, said she questioned whether using community centres as temporary shelter was a viable solution.

“It’s a Band-Aid fix," Gaglardi said. "I’m not sure it's fixing the overall problem.”

She said she saw arguing and fighting among about 30 homeless people who were leaving the centre one morning last week.

“That was weird,” Gaglardi said. “We were going to the play gym.”

gschaefer@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glenschaefer