“Ever time I walk out the door I look left and right. I can’t walk down the street without being asked if I’m chasing,” he told a vocal crowd.
The Andrews government extended the injecting room’s opening hours shortly after last month’s meeting that about 150 residents also attended.
The centre is open 7am until 9pm weekdays, and 8am until 7pm on weekends – three more hours every day, aiming to make drug users less likely to shoot up in public and loiter in the area.
“What a shitstorm we created last time,” Cr Jolly said, “and now there’s movement at the station … it’s not fair for Richmond to take the burden for Melbourne.”
About 20 residents spoke across the 90-minute meeting, with the audience voicing warm approval on common suggestions such as making the injection centre 24-hour operational.
The largely divided crowd, led by Cr Jolly, did agree that the injecting room was a worthwhile concept.
“If anyone in this room thinks a handful of Victoria Police can fix this drug problem alone, they’re absolutely dreaming,” Cr Jolly said.
However, while some attendees said they’d like to see similar operations set up in addition to Richmond to lighten the burden, others said they’d prefer the Richmond site be abolished and moved to a less residential neighbourhood.
Those in favour of the latter cited the example of Sydney’s Kings Cross safe injecting room, situated in a commercial and transport hub.
One man proposed improves transport facilities for drug users in Richmond.
“What you have right now is 200 people wandering through our streets that are high on drugs. Last week I picked up a wallet from Tarneit [in Melbourne’s west], people are coming to our area and not leaving.”
Allan Cove, a local real estate agent, sarcastically suggested a “commando squad with machine guns to clear them off the street”, prompting laughs and applause.
Residents were invited to join an organising committee, with 30 signing up after the meeting including local man Chris Duffields, who said it was a “long process” but a step in the right direction.
A date for the next community meeting was not set, although Cr Jolly indicated a special meeting would be called for residents from the housing commission block that is next to the injecting room.
Tempers first flared when Billie-Jean Bradley, a young woman who said a friend had recently died outside the Richmond injecting room while it was closed, was brought to tears after suggesting a more open-minded approach to drug users and the injecting room.
The crowd responded with boos and groans, led by an elderly lady who screamed “I can see it from my window, it’s f—ing empty” in reference to the injecting room.
One woman stormed out of the meeting when Victorian upper house member Fiona Patten, who introduced the safe injecting room bill, took the microphone at the conclusion.
Ms Patten, along with safe injecting room boss Nico Clarke, said she looked forward to working with the committee.
Mr Clarke invited residents to do a tour of the injecting room and said, “from our perspective, the facility is really helping the people that use it”.
Michael is a reporter for The Age.