Motion being tabled in Cambridge to create safe plan for outreach van

By Justine Fraser

Back in March, the City of Cambridge bylaw told the Sanguen Community Health Van, that it was in a no-parking zone, while on Market Street near the Bridges emergency shelter.

For several years, the outreach van has parked in that area without any issues. The organization tends to serve about 30 to 40 people every week at that location with harm reduction and health services.

Ever since they paused services there, they lost touch with most of the people they served and haven’t seen them visit other service locations.

“They are not turning up at the other Cambridge locations we’re serving,” Julie Kalbfleisch, the director of communications for Sanguen Health Centre, said.

She added their team is worried about them not getting the services they need.

“What were trying to do is prevent folks from getting sicker or contracting some sort of blood-borne illness like Hepatitis C, which is highly preventable through providing people with safe equipment and tools to be able to inject,” she said.

Kalbfleisch added sometimes these people lose trust in healthcare workers and the system, so they tend not to seek out help which makes it harder to reconnect with them.

“Sanguen works really hard through the harm reduction program but just through our outreach and van program to be able to rebuild those connections and when you rebuild those connections all kinds of things are possible,” she said.

Harm reduction and health services can help people get back on their feet, connecting them to housing and other service providers, said Kalbfleisch.

In a statement to CityNews, the City of Cambridge said they don’t have jurisdiction over the operation of the Sanguen van and they requested that the organization explore other options that comply with city bylaws.

“The Sanguen Community Health Van has regularly parked on Market Street in Cambridge on Tuesday evenings and the City’s Municipal By-law Compliance team have advised Sanguen multiple times that parking on the street is a violation of our Parking By-law and our Corridor Management By-law,” the statement reads.

“Market Street is a busy street that experiences rush hour daily, we have received complaints when the van is parked on this street as it causes blocked vision for vehicles, combined with a high volume of traffic on the street from clients to the van it creates a major safety concern. Should there be an emergency in this area requiring emergency vehicles access to this street the van is then impeding on the ability for emergency vehicles to pass.”

A motion will be brought to Cambridge council on May 28 that could change things for the Sanguen van.

If passed, it would put the region into the driver’s seat to make a decision. The region would have to establish safe and inclusive areas in Cambridge for the delivery of health services.

Sanguen will be sending two delegates to speak to what they say “is the bigger picture.”

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