Teresa Taylor had packed up her son in the car and was about to leave the driveway on Sept. 16, when she saw the path blocked by transparent tubes and orange caps and plungers – dozens of hypodermic needles, intentionally stretching the span of the gravel driveway. Accompanying the collection was a sign encouraging people who use drugs to visit the property to get their fix, all to apparently send a message to Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor, who lives on the property with his daughter and grandson.
“If you’re desperate enough to do that, I can understand your frustration,” Taylor said, pointing his comments to the individual who left the needles and sign at his house.
“If you’re at that point, where you would risk getting caught and embarrassed and everything over something like that, then you might be pretty upset with things.”
In debates about drug use and homelessness in Grand Forks, the mayor has been an advocate of supportive housing and housing-first models for support people who use drugs or experiencing homelessness. He was also a supporter of the Warming Centre before it closed down in August. The facility was Grand Forks’s most recent endeavour into offering an extreme weather shelter, which eventually got funding extensions from BC Housing through the summer before city council voted to enforce a zoning bylaw that, through their interpretation, forbade overnighting at the location for multiple individuals.
Taylor said that his family handled last week’s incident well. “We’re not distraught,” he said, but Taylor noted that they felt the personal attack was a step too far.
The family reported the incident to the RCMP, who attended the scene, took photos and collected the evidence.
Soon after photos of the scene, taken by Teresa, were published on Facebook, a flurry of comments with messages of support and apologies came through – some from allies and many from ideological foes as well.On Facebook, many apologies for the incident were framed by noting that argument is one thing, but the personal level of this particular demonstration of disapproval went too far.
“I think that was a shock for people,” Taylor said. “That’s what went over the line for a lot of people – that they personalized it to that level.”
Taylor’s grandson, who is 12, also lives in the home and saw the display.
“He’s pretty smart,” Taylor said of his grandson. “We’ve been open with him about drugs and drug use, but it was more the intrusion on our property that made him nervous.”
This incident is not the first time that Taylor’s property has been the target of personal, political attacks. He said that when he closed down the Broadacres Care Facility and employees were laid off, things also escalated.
“That boiled over into a knife in the door with a sign that was cut out from newspapers,” Taylor recalled.
“If you look at the emotion behind some of the things that are going on, it’s quite a personal issue.”
With this latest demonstration, Taylor said, he’s looking at a turning point in the discussion.
“I think there’s an onus on the community right now to really come forward and say, ‘Come on, let’s look at something that might resolve this.’”
Seeing the temperature begin to drop, a social services advisory group has begun surveying interest from property owners and non-profits that would be able to run a winter shelter in Grand Forks this year.