(File image)

A new report looking at methamphetamine use in Winnipeg’s West Broadway neighbourhood is calling for additional safe spaces, support services and mental health resources for those experiencing addiction.

The report, titled ‘The West Broadway Community Methamphetamine Strategy,’ was created as partnership between the West Broadway Directors Network (WBDN) and the Manitoba Research Alliance.

The goals of this strategy are to facilitate a cohesive approach between various community organizations in addressing the risks and harms of methamphetamine use; create a tool that can help community members identify resources and procedures when connecting with people who use methamphetamine; and provide a systematic assessment to identify service and policy gaps.

The WBDN also wanted the strategy to be informed by those in the neighbourhood with lived experiences.

“The West Broadway Strategy aims to present a framework specific to the needs of the community that involves the voices of those who have been omitted thus far—people who use drugs,” the report says.

“The strategy intends to destigmatize those who use methamphetamine, provide a platform for their stories, and demonstrate that the “meth crisis” in Winnipeg is actually much more complicated than just a crisis of methamphetamine itself.”

During the process of creating the report, those involved completed one-on-one interviews and surveys with 25 people who use methamphetamine, as well as 20 business owners and community service organizations. They also examined best practices from other places experiencing similar issues and built on past community-based research and initiatives in the city.

They also created a community asset map to identify resources that already exist in West Broadway and came up with government and system-level recommendations.

THE GAPS

In the report, the WBDN identified five gaps that show issues in terms of awareness and support for those who use methamphetamine.

These gaps include:

  • Housing with support – The report notes that many people who use methamphetamine, as well services providers, said they felt the West Broadway area was missing housing with supports. The only supportive housing that currently exists in the neighbourhood are small, abstinence- based, and have long wait times.
  • 24-hour safe spaces – According to the report, the conversations with the methamphetamine users showed a need for 24-hour safe spaces that provide support and services to people experiencing homelessness, substance abuse and mental health issues.
  • Mental health supports that help with trauma – Both the methamphetamine users and service providers told the interviewers that intergenerational trauma is a precursor to meth use. The representatives from the community-based organizations said they don’t have the expertise of funding to provide the type of support that’s required for a lot of their participants.
  • Fair representation – The report notes that all community members said that the media presents a shallow representation of the situation. Those interviewed described many facets of the issue that are missing from the media, including the fact that people from all different communities and income brackets use crystal meth. The report also notes the term ‘crisis’ is used with “superficial analysis.”
  • Public Education – Those interviewed told researchers the public is uneducated on the issue; however, it’s not the public’s fault. The reports said that meth users want their communities to learn about the root causes and sociocultural context of methamphetamine use in West Broadway.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The report also provides a number of recommendations aimed at complementing and building on the research in the report. They are also intended to align with the work that’s already being done by others to help with Winnipeg’s response to methamphetamine. 

The six actions recommended in the report are:

  • Forming a West Broadway Community Strategy Team;
  • Creating a Community Capacity Hub within the WBDN membership;
  • Asking all levels of government to take responsibility for the methamphetamine issue, and invest in substance-use support options;
  • Look into the acquisition of available public facilities or privately listed buildings to turn into a 24/7 safe space, as well as supported housing units;
  • Call on the City of Winnipeg and the province to create a comprehensive harm reduction strategy that has clear targets and timelines; and
  • Create a streamlined partnership with health service providers to address the mental health gaps.

“In our conversations with all interviewees, a loud chord was struck for increasing human connection, acceptance, and empathy, and the need for balanced approaches reverberated through all interviews,” the report said.

“Respondents asserted that if politicians, policy-makers, and the public could begin to participate in a practice of anti-oppression, detach themselves from the hook of moral panic, and choose a process of fighting against stigma and resisting stereotypes, many of the gaps articulated through this study would naturally begin to narrow.”