Art brings residents and safe injecting room users together

“We’re humans as well and not just an addict or a user or a junkie,” she said. “We have voices. People can see that we have feelings and emotions. ”

Lucy has stopped using heroin regularly but still attends the safe injecting room to visit the doctor there and to keep in contact with friends.

“When you reduce your use, you reduce coming down here, so you lose friends,” she said. “So for me, it’s allowed me to come down here for a reason other than getting on [heroin] and keep friends … it’s lovely to not lose community. When that can happen it’s really tough. ”

The safe injecting room in Richmond opened in 2018 after a spate of heroin-related deaths and increasing heroin use and has recorded over 270,000 visitors with 4676 overdoses safely managed inside the room.

However, its location has been controversial with some residents calling for the room to be moved from next door to a primary school. The government’s plans to establish a second safe injecting room in Flinders Street have also met fierce resistance.

Ha Nguyen, president of the Victoria Street Business Association, is concerned about the location of the safe injecting room in Richmond and anti-social behavior in the area.

“The injecting room is an issue for Richmond residents,” he said. “As local traders and businesses we want to promote the street and do not want to go into negativity about the street.”

Exhibition organizer Judy Ryan, who received an OAM in the Queen’s Birthday Honors last week for her community work, said residents of Richmond and Abbotsford supported the safe injecting room.

She said there was a strong sense of community and social justice in the area and the exhibition highlighted this as well as providing a creative outlet for users of the safe injecting room.

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“The life of somebody with addiction is usually quite solitary, just in pursuit of getting the drugs and going to the injecting room or into a laneway,” she said. “To actually sit with each other and paint or write or talk has been a very valuable experience.”

All proceeds from the private auction of each work go directly to the artist.

The exhibition runs until Sunday at The Hive Shopping Center, 313 Victoria Street, Abbotsford.

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