Programming Connection

Harm Reduction Satellite Sites Program 

Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre
Toronto, ON
2020

Challenges

  • The program operates out of a variety of buildings and there can be challenges with gaining access to new buildings or with satellite activity drawing unwanted attention to the SSW. Owing to the stigma faced by people who use drugs, some housing providers attribute any foot traffic or visits to the SSW’s unit as evidence of drug trafficking. The program supports SSWs in mediating any tensions with building managers or landlords and has housing legal resources that SSWs can access if they need them.
  • Social/structural issues in the lives of the SSWs can affect their ability to run their satellite sites. Often these issues are related to the criminalization of drug use and possession, eviction threats based on stigma related to drug use, or health issues. The program provides flexibility, support services (from the program coordinator and others) and referrals to community services (e.g., legal supports related to housing and other issues) for SSWs, recognizing the barriers that workers and clients may face. 
  • The ongoing overdose crisis has had an enormous toll on the emotional well-being and physical health of all people who use drugs, including SSWs. Many SSWs have experienced personal loss and are regularly involved in reversing overdoses. Additional harm reduction and overdose supports such as pathways to counselling services have been put in place for both clients and SSWs, and the frequency of team meetings has been increased to provide a supportive space for SSWs.