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Resident of Camp Marjorie dies following overdose, camp leaders say

·3 min read
A resident at Camp Marjorie was found in medical distress during a routine wellness check on Tuesday morning, camp organizers say. The person wasn't able to be resuscitated. (Raphaële Frigon/Radio-Canada - image credit)
A resident at Camp Marjorie was found in medical distress during a routine wellness check on Tuesday morning, camp organizers say. The person wasn't able to be resuscitated. (Raphaële Frigon/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A person living in a homeless camp in Regina suffered a fatal overdose on Tuesday morning, according to one of the camp's leaders.

It was the first fatal overdose at Camp Marjorie, according to Shylo Stevenson, a camp leader.

Stevenson told CBC that during a wellness check around 10 a.m., the person was found in medical distress and wasn't able to be resuscitated.

Stevenson is also the communications officer for Regina Needle Recovery & Community Support, which posted the news of the person's death on its Facebook page Tuesday.

According to the Saskatchewan Coroners Service, the death is currently under investigation and an autopsy is being conducted.

The cause of death can't be confirmed until the results of the autopsy are finalized, which could take four to six weeks, the coroners service said in a statement to CBC News.

Camp Marjorie — named after a homeless Regina woman who died earlier this month — is a temporary tent encampment in Pepsi Park, intended provide vulnerable people with a temporary home, safety and food. Camp organizers and supporters are also working to provide support to those suffering from addictions.

The camp has 71 tents set up and often has over 100 people continuously, Stevenson said. That number currently includes two women who are pregnant and three elders. There are no children at the camp right now.

"As social services removes one, we have about five more coming through," he said. "So it's a revolving door."

The volunteer-run camp has a Facebook page, which offers updates on donation needs and offers expressions of gratitude to those who support the camp.

Future of Camp Marjorie

On Monday, provincial Social Services Minister Lori Carr met with Camp Marjorie leaders to discuss the future of the camp.

"It was good to meet in person and share our concerns directly," said Stevenson. "I feel that we had a productive meeting, relaying our concerns on behalf of the people and that hopefully we are coming to an end."

"I appreciated the meeting to discuss next steps with representatives from the organizations supporting individuals staying at Camp Marjorie," Carr said in a statement.

"We all agree we do not wish to see people camping outside as the weather gets colder. We are working with the City of Regina and community-based organizations to determine potential solutions that will keep people warm and safe."

Jeff Redekop, the executive director of income assistance with the Ministry of Social Services, said in a statement the City of Regina and the Ministry of Social Services are working together to consider adequate indoor options to support individuals who experience chronic homelessness.

Those options are still being developed, the statement said.

"Four clients have obtained stable housing, and some individuals have accepted support to be relocated temporarily to a hotel and/or shelters," Redekop said in the statement.

'Slowly turning into a crisis again'

But Stevenson thinks more action is needed from the government, especially after the death on Tuesday.

"This is beyond our level of care and volunteers," he said. "We had many people that did not know how to deal with this because they were coming in to serve coffee and move people here."

The experience was traumatic, Stevenson said.

"We're slowly turning into a crisis again, largely because we don't have appropriate support in place.… We're hurting and we're suffering and we're struggling mentally, physically and emotionally, spiritually," he said.

"We just need help."

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