I'm really struggling with family and friends that continue to complain about Safe Consumption Sites moving into our community. As a nurse with experience in acute and community care, I know how important these spaces are for people. I'm unsure though how to address the angry "not in my back yard" (NIMBY) attitude.
What I should say as a response to their negative and judgmental comments?
Dear Struggling Advocate,
Thank you for sharing these concerns. Firstly the NIMBY attitude is not a new problem. Many communities face similar negative responses when any sort of progressive social program seems to threaten the status quo.
Safe Consumption Sites (SCS) are no exception. Many people believe that by opening these spaces, the neighbourhood will encourage substance use and perhaps draw more people who use substances into the community. In the Alberta context, these worries are present in many cities and communities, since SCS are relatively new and challenge years of prohibitionist drug policy.
Fortunately, there is a lot of research to share, both within Canada and internationally, that can help support your statement that SCS are beneficial to the community.
We have outlined a few key talking points below to help:
While it may not change the NIMBY attitude, it is important to recognize that economic costs are not the main reason why SCSs are gaining community traction. Instead, it is always necessary to mention the ethical implications of these spaces. Harm reduction services such as SCSs save lives and acknowledges that people, regardless of their substance use, deserve access to care and support.
We hope this helps answer some of the more basic complaints your friends and family have about SCSs and can assist your advocacy for these fantastic community services.
Thank you for your question!