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To: Premier Doug Ford and Mayor Olivia Chow

Support Harm Reduction in Leslieville

Photo by Andre Gaulin on Unsplash
(Image caption: "Welcome to Leslieville" by Linda N. is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Description: Mural with the word "Leslieville" painted on a brick building with cars turning a corner in the foreground.)

On July 7, 2023, a horrible tragedy occurred in our neighbourhood, when a community member was killed in the middle of the day at Queen and Carlaw, a tragedy that left the community in shock.

This senseless tragedy has also brought increased attention to the South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC), located across the street from the site of the shooting. South Riverdale Community Health Centre has been an important part of the Leslieville community for 47 years, providing health and social services to vulnerable, marginalized, and disenfranchised members of the community since 1976.

Random acts of gun violence are scary and disturbing. However, gun violence is not caused by harm reduction services, and harm reduction services increase our neighbourhood safety, especially in the midst of a devastating overdose crisis that has taken the lives of so many community members.

SRCHC currently provides services to over 12,000 clients - critical health and social services from mental health supports to diabetes education; Indigenous Health Promotion; support for people living with complex, chronic conditions; access to food programs and programs for newcomers; and programs for people who use drugs and people who are struggling with addictions. SRCHC has won numerous awards, including for its health promotion work within the Chinese community and its harm reduction programs supporting people who use drugs.

South Riverdale Community Health Centre also opened one of the first Harm Reduction Programs in Toronto 25 years ago - CounterFIT. CounterFIT opened at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in response to a strong need for harm reduction services for people who use drugs in the area. And after a feasibility study demonstrated a strong need for supervised injection sites in Toronto, in 2017 SRCHC opened one of Toronto’s first supervised consumption sites - keepSIX. keepSIX site reversed 129 overdose in 2022, demonstrating how South Riverdale Community Health Centre’s harm reduction programs and supervised consumption site have and continue to be a crucial part of the response to the drug toxicity overdose crisis that killed 2,500 people in Ontario in 2022, and continues to take the lives of 6 people in Ontario every day.

The relationships that are built at the Community Health Centre are incredibly valuable - providing people with access to primary care and social services, connecting clients to social workers, housing, and food programs, providing education programs and adapting services to the most pressing needs within the community. SRCHC also played a key role in the response on the ground to the COVID pandemic - ensuring that COVID testing and vaccinations were available to community members, conducting outreach in local shelters and providing community supports to ensure that some of our most vulnerable community members had access to vaccinations and much needed medical care.

With increased costs of housing and food, the collapse of the shelter system, huge waitlists to access affordable housing and addiction treatment services, and the inaccessibility of mental health supports, the services provided by the South Riverdale Community Health Centre are more needed than ever. Years of cuts to social services across Toronto have led to more community members needing support, and fewer services are available to help them. Leslieville has a long history as a working class and mixed-income community, and continues to be a diverse neighbourhood that includes community organizations, low-barrier services, and supportive housing. Research shows that community safety increases when harm reduction supports are expanded rather than reduced.

Why is this important?

All community members benefit from the services available at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre, whether by being a direct service user, or by reaping the benefits when people who use drugs and other marginalized people have access to health and social services they wouldn't otherwise have access to.

Given this reality, we sign this letter in support of:

** The many important community-based health and social services provided by the South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC);
** Continuation of the Supervised Consumption Site and harm reduction programming at SRCHC;
** Ongoing collaboration between South Riverdale Community Health Centre and the community at large, which includes residents of Leslieville, South Riverdale, and Toronto more broadly.

We also call on all levels of government to work together to:

** Increase funding for SRCHC to enable them to sustain and expand services in light of the socio-economic crises facing so many in the community;
** Increase funding for the Supervised Consumption Site and harm reduction programming at SRCHC to ensure there are enough staff and programming to meet the increasing needs of service users, and actively engage with the broader community;
** Address gun violence through strong gun control measures and community programming that targets the root causes of violence.

With love, kindness, and care,

Leslieville Harm Reduction Coalition

Leslieville Harm Reduction Coalition is a group of neighbours committed to supporting our community, including and especially marginalized people, people who use drugs, people who access harm reduction services, and people experiencing homelessness. As a coalition, we care about all of our neighbours.



2023-08-02 17:16:22 -0400

1,000 signatures reached

2023-07-26 19:01:32 -0400

500 signatures reached

2023-07-24 21:37:22 -0400

100 signatures reached

2023-07-24 15:03:04 -0400

50 signatures reached

2023-07-24 12:32:58 -0400

25 signatures reached

2023-07-24 09:48:57 -0400

10 signatures reached