After several delays in construction, House of Friendship’s new addiction treatment centre is open at 562 Concession Road in Cambridge. In September 2018, construction began to add a second floor to the facility. It was supposed to be ready by June 2019, but that date changed in May 2019, when the building caught fire, causing serious damage, as reported by Global News. The fire is still under investigation.
Last month, however, after jumping through several hoops, the centre opened, ready to welcome folks in need of treatment. But the hoops didn’t end with the fire. When House of Friendship first announced the new project in 2018, a petition started circulating the neighbouring communities opposing the centre. Just a few weeks ago, a rally was held in Galt opposing harm reduction strategies, including supervised injection sites and the treatment centre.
“Out of such adversity, I think we actually really ended up with some incredibly positive outcomes … [the community] was not welcoming us with open arms … when they first heard of us coming into Cambridge with an addictions treatment facility. That was certainly a challenge right out of the gate,” Tara Groves-Taylor, director of addiction services for House of Friendship said.
“We had to do some work in trying to educate — I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about what an addiction treatment facility is, and isn’t.”
Groves-Taylor said that after the fire, many people who initially opposed the project came forward to offer their condolences and show support for the new facility. This year, they have received more donations than in 2019. The backlash became less apparent but didn’t go away entirely.
The expansion of this facility came from a place of necessity. There is a significant need in Waterloo Region, and Cambridge specifically, for an addictions treatment centre. As of Sept. 2020, Waterloo Region had already surpassed the number of overdose cases recorded in 2019 in its entirety. Waterloo Region has some of the highest statistics in the province pertaining to opioid use, but more broadly, the centre takes in people from all over the province, not just Waterloo Region.
The centre isn’t limited to treating opioid addiction. Groves-Taylor said that alcohol addiction is also a large issue in the Region.
The men’s residential program was previously held at a facility on King Street in Kitchener. This program has been operational for 37 years but is now operating out of the new facility in Cambridge. This is an abstinence-based program that is four to six months long and offers one-on-one counselling, as well as group counselling. The program also provides a robust after-care program that can be reviewed at any point, regardless of how much time has passed.
In addition to the men’s residential program, the facility also offers day treatment and is hoping to soon offer online community counselling services.
The program is operating at half capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions, offering 10 spots opposed to 20. As of September, the residential program was full.
“We wanted a place where people could come and receive support in a comfortable space where they feel dignified and respected and that’s what I continue to hope for this space and the programs that we offer,” Groves-Taylor said.
“I’d like to think that as we continue to be a part of the community and gain a deeper understanding … about addictions and the support that we provide, that we’ll be an organization that’s synonymous with Cambridge, which is not currently the case I don’t think, but I’d like to think that down the road, we will be.”