Approximately 30 local residents have recently attended a council meeting to ask what council can do about drug-related issues in Houston.
According to Denise Hotte, one of the local residents who attended the meeting, Houston is facing an “epidemic of drugs,” which she says has led to an increase in local job vacancies, as well as needles being found in public areas.
“These issues are affecting every aspect of this community and the residents who have chosen this community to live in,” she said.
Hotte says the company she co-owns, DH Manufacturing Inc., does not have enough employees to fill vacant positions.
“We have employees spending their cheques on drugs, not showing up to work and then having no money to pay rent or live on for the next weeks until they get paid again,” she told Houston Today. “We have some major issues in town, in my opinion because of the direct relationship with drugs.”
The concerned group of residents has also requested that municipal crews do more frequent sweeps of public areas to clean up needles. Local resident Paula Kettle noted that she no longer feels comfortable taking her children to parks because of the risk of finding needles.
Houston RCMP detachment commander sergeant Jason Burndred confirmed the RCMP have recovered needles from a few locations in town, including the amphitheatre at Jamie Baxter Park and behind the hockey arena.
According to sgt. Burndred, over the last two years the RCMP have made drug enforcement one of their top priorities.
“As a result we have seen an increase in drug-related investigations,” he said.
On June 8, 2018 the Houston RCMP executed a search warrant where they arrested five persons.
“We seized a quantity of cocaine and methamphetamine,” described Sgt. Burndred. “Charges are being recommended against a male and female for possession for the purpose of trafficking.”
The RCMP have also recently implemented a Block Watch Program in Houston, which sgt. Burndred describes as “an extra set of eyes and ears in the community.”
“Volunteer members go out into their neighbourhoods and speak with members about many issues including crime prevention,” he explained.
Sgt. Burndred added that it’s important to educate children about the dangers of drugs and to remind them not to touch needles.
“The Houston RCMP remains committed to working in partnership with the community to ensure Houston remains a safe place to live and raise a family,” he said. “We encourage anyone with concerns or questions to contact the detachment directly.”
Although Houston Mayor Shane Brienen closed the council meeting’s public input opportunity after 15 minutes – noting that only 15 minutes had been set aside for it – he encouraged the concerned attendees to meet with him outside of the council meeting to discuss the issue further.
Mayor Brienen did not respond to Houston Today’s requests for comment by press time.
The B.C. government says there was no program where hundreds of people on income or disability assistance were relocated to Houston in the past few years, unlike what some residents have suggested.
In terms of moving, the provincial government may provide relocation support to someone on assistance who has a confirmed job in a different community; that person, however, would no longer be receiving assistance in their new community as they would be working, explained the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
“It’s also important to note that not every person with an addiction is on assistance,” added the ministry.
The provincial government noted that B.C. is in the midst of an overdose crisis and that the impact can be seen in both large cities and small towns.
A total of 391 people in B.C. died from illicit drug overdoses in the first three months of 2018, with 161 people dying of an overdose in March alone.
The B.C. government says the newly created Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has been taking action to tackle drug addiction across the province.
Northern Health said Houston currently offers community programs that provide assessment, treatment and referrals for adults with mental health and/or addiction problems. For more information about these programs, call 250-845-5964 or visit https://www.northernhealth.ca/YourHealth/MentalHealthAddictions/CommunityProgramsContacts/Houston.aspx.
– With files from Ashley Wadhwani