White Pony cleanup discovers hundreds of used needles

Alex Mcnabb Sinclair, (left), Rubina Khanam (centre) and Jan Morier, (right) are three volunteers at the White Pony Lodge. The North Central neighbourhood’s back alleys are the group’s main focus for cleanup and removal of drugs. Photo by Joseph Bernacki

After spending a day picking up discarded needles with her friends, Patty Will never expected to find another dangerous stash just outside her backyard.

“The stuff I found myself in my neighbourhood last weekend and then this weekend, last night, was not under the snow, it was just dumped,” said Will, one of several active volunteers with North Central’s White Pony Lodge.

Will discovered 91 needles in an open crate that was sitting in her back alley near a local homeless mission.

One week prior, Will found a purse stuffed with 299 needles that was also thrown outside large recycling bins behind her property. This has motivated her to continue cleaning up her neighbourhood.

“My initial thought is, ‘Why don’t people use the recycling bins that are provided for them?’ ” said Will.

“The best thing the city can do for this neighbourhood is provide more of the city bins that they have; there’s one on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Robinson Street, that’s the only one in this neighbourhood, it’s not enough. Just make yourself safe, make your neighbourhood safe, I just wish people would do that.”

North Central’s White Pony Lodge was founded in 2016 to promote a safe and connected neighbourhood. The lodge dispatches a twice-weekly patrol of volunteers who remove drug contents from back alleys and abandoned properties.

With the spring thaw, volunteers have been increasingly active in cleanup of drug paraphernalia. During a recent search of one hour and 45 minutes, in a two-block radius, 10 volunteers found 193 syringes, 187 caps and syringe parts, 104 water bottles, 94 cookers, 23 pill bottles, 15 lighters, 17 used condoms, 20 arm bands and five weapons (two knives and three razors).

Water bottles contain distilled water used to mix a powdered drug in the cooker to heat with a lighter and draw into a syringe. The patrol picks up this harmful material using tongs, most of which is used for heroin, cocaine and different types of opiates. The drug usage influences gang activity, violence and prostitution.

“The shock, you just can’t get it out of your eyes and pretty soon your nose,” said Jan Morier, a volunteer and patrol coordinator of the group.

“You have to dwell on the job at hand; we’re repeating the same thing as last week, our group hardly moved. We should do what we did tonight for the foreseeable future with the snow melting, that’s what we’re going to be seeing.”

A stash of needles is found on the lot of an abandoned home in North Central. During the spring thaw, needles become more visible to the White Pony Lodge volunteers at work. Photo by Joseph Bernacki

The waste is picked up by Street Project, a needle exchange and harm reduction organization.

After seeing positive impacts with the establishment of the Bear Clan Patrol in Winnipeg, White Pony’s members wanted to establish a weekly patrol and presence in Regina.

“There was a group of about five individuals in North Central who were affected personally by the violence that is occurring,” said Morier.

“After some community consultation, it was decided that a weekly patrol, with the vision to create a safe and connected community, is something that citizens of North Central and surrounding areas wanted to keep going.”

Members of the community routinely show their appreciation by honking and waving at the volunteers, but during the recent pickup, a couple warned them to leave the area.

“It’s about visibility, it’s about healing and being out there in the community, it’s a sign for the community to come together and heal itself,” said Leah O’Malley, a White Pony volunteer and board member.

Morier stays motivated by enjoying the comradery of their weekly endeavor.

“This is date night,” said Morier. “Saturday and Sunday these are my people, these are my friends and family. This is where we live.”

O’Malley believes educating residents about the disposal of these materials is vital to neighbourhood safety.

“I think it’s really important for kids especially to see that they should care about where they live and contribute so that when they grow up, that’s something that they’re always looking for,” said O’Malley.

Anyone over 18 is welcome to patrol with the White Pony Lodge provided they are sober and dress appropriately and safely for each season. The lodge is located at 2901 Fifth Ave.

Joseph Bernacki

I am a third year journalism student at the University of Regina. Growing up in Winnipeg I hosted a country music show for two years on FM Radio. I share a great interest in current events, sports and business affairs. My dream job would be to work as a sports broadcaster in Chicago.

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