It's always been an uphill battle for Direction 180, but that's life when you're serving the city's most vulnerable and forgotten.
There's no disputing Direction's struggle. Established in 2001 in association with the Mainline Needle Exchange, Direction 180 is a methadone clinic on Gottingen that provides support and treatment for recovering addicts. The presiding goal, now as always, is harm reduction.
The problem, now as always, is money. Beyond the relatively strict and exclusive provincial drug dependency program, Direction 180 has been the only game in town for addicts in need of methadone to help wean their addiction. Support has always been scattered—not everyone supports facilitating as a means to recovery, and the clinic has been dogged by NIMBY; so, despite overflowing with clients, Direction 180 has had to hustle for funding and fight for resources since day one.
But this month, a ray of sunshine reached the clinic—literally and figuratively. Thanks to a boost in provincial funding ($400,000 this year, up from $240,000), the clinic has moved into a new, larger space on the street-level of Gottingen, just next door to the Friendship Centre. Over the past weeks and months, the building has been renovated, painted and generally spruced up. And the best part?
"Windows," says Direction 180's executive director Cindy MacIsaac. "We got these lovely big new windows."
The bright three-storey space will give the clinic room to stretch out, says MacIsaac, who notes that the old space, just up the street, had been bursting at the seams. They've been moved in for around two weeks; staff and clients have already noticed a difference.
"They're very happy," she says. "If I were to show you the inside of the other space, and then show you this space, you would be astounded. It was like shovelling water in the old building."
MacIsaac is pleased to see the provincial government responding to the work happening at the clinic, and acknowledging its necessity—even if the work they do remains a source of controversy.
"The province has done great work in updating and meeting new blood-born pathogen standards. I think that effort has been commendable," she says. "We're part of that for them, but we're still not the most sexy topic.
"For us, the using population is our top priority, and that can be a problem for some people. But I think there's been a kind of recognition...the province gave themselves a measuring stick for safety and security and said, "Here's what we need to do and how we can do it,' and I think we've benefitted from that."
Renovations are ongoing—"We haven't planted any flowers yet, but that will probably come"—and the clinic is planning an open house at some point in the coming month to properly introduce and christen the new building.
The good news on Gottingen continues...just a quick reminder that the public dedication of the new art in front of the North Branch Library happens on Thursday, June 28, at 3pm. The new 20-foot sculpture now has a name ("North is Freedom"), and will get a proper welcome to the community with a poetry reading by George Elliot Clarke, refreshments, entertainment...it promises to bring the street to a stand-still (you know... 'cause it's a sculpture).
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