Skip to main content

'It’s a war zone': Drop-In Centre clients complain of human rights violations amid calls for facility improvements

**WARNING: Story includes disturbing images**

Calls are growing louder for facility improvements to the Calgary Drop-in Centre as clients who held their silence for months now speak out in the hopes of more humane livable conditions.

Earlier this week, CTV News reported on several photos taken from inside the downtown/East Village facility that show run down bathrooms, broken toilets, water fountains filled with needles and living space littered with garbage.

Matthew Allaby was formerly addicted to drugs and has now been sober for more than 15 years. He fears that he will be banned from the Drop-In Centre for speaking with the media, but claims the entire building is now unsafe.

“It’s an absolute war zone,” he said. “It’s out of control, lockers get broken into all the time, people doing drugs in the bathroom, people smoking drugs in their beds, I mean it’s just inhumane.”

Bathroom at Calgary Drop-In Centre

“The ventilation is also just recirculated and that is a health hazard because people are smoking drugs inside and all that chemical smoke is going through the ventilation system and spreading throughout the building.”

Allaby told CTV News he has since filed a human rights complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, which was unable to confirm that complaint was in fact filed due to confidentiality reasons.

He adds however that not a single day has gone by over the past six months where a violent act at the Drop-In Centre hasn’t occurred before his eyes.

“I mean they don’t properly search people and people get guns, knives, batons, whatever you can get, anything goes in there. There’s absolutely no control.”

“You can’t even complain to the management because they don’t listen, they don’t care. They just say ‘we gave up, we don’t care anymore.’ We are human beings, we have rights, we have a right to a safe environment and that is not a safe environment.”


Other longtime Drop-In Centre clients are also expressing frustration including Joseph Herman MacDonald Barbeau who is constantly left wondering why staff members are complacently allowing drug use inside the building.

“They say they hear you, but they don’t,” he said.

“The staff have zero control and they call themselves a rehabilitation centre, but it’s an enabling centre. You walk through the doors and they’re handing out bubbles, foil, and rigs for drugs.”

Barbeau says he’s now become so numb to watching people overdose that he can’t bear to even watch.

“I just personally cannot get emotionally involved anymore," he said. "Otherwise it would kill me.”


The Calgary Drop-In Centre says it has seen an influx of people during the latest cold snap, which has led to overcrowding concerns and led to an impact on services.

Management at the facility were unavailable for an interview on camera, but a statement was provided highlighting a series of renovations on several floors in the main shelter that will soon take place to accommodate new withdrawal management and recovery programs.

Other renovations will also take place in the coming months to help mitigate the wear and tear of the high-use building.

“The washrooms on the second floor are prioritized for this phase of work,” read a statement from the Drop-In Centre.

“Though our emergency shelter is not perfect, we are confident that our staff offer a high level of service to all vulnerable people and prioritize safety and dignity for all who come through our doors.

Drop-In Centre

"We appreciate that shelter guests are concerned about the state of our facilities, all people deserve a safe, clean, warm place to stay.

"Our staff work incredibly hard to support those who need housing and are also busy responding to the effects of the opioid crisis every day; the reality is that this work is very demanding and hard on our facilities, which are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.”

The province has allocated $3.9 million in its recent budget for facility renovations and modernizations, but some clients like Allaby say more funding is needed to overcome staffing burnout.

“Where’s that money going? They’re not doing anything, they’re shifting people around, they’re causing havoc, they’re intentionally aggravating situations,” he said.

“I think it’s just a matter of time before somebody steps in and does something and I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.”


Late Saturday afternoon, Jeremy Nixon, Alberta's minister of senior, community and social services issued the following statement:

"Alberta’s government is supporting those experiencing homelessness with increased funding to the Calgary Drop-In Centre through the affordable housing partnership program," it said.

"Just this week, we announced that $3.9 million in additional funding would be provided for the purpose of major renovations to five buildings, which is also adding 15 new units of affordable housing.

"With this funding on top of our increased wages for those who work in homeless shelters, we are strengthening access and improving services for Calgarians in need." Top Stories

Blue Jays secure playoff berth

The Toronto Blue Jays are returning to the post-season. Toronto secured an American League playoff spot when the visiting Texas Rangers beat the Seattle Mariners 6-1 tonight.

Stay Connected