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Needle exchange gets prickly in Greenwood

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SEATTLE — A proposed needle exchange in one neighborhood has a business owner taking his opposition to the streets.

signHe’s posted a sign outside of his coffee shop and now it’s stirring controversy along Aurora Avenue.

The coffee shop owner didn’t want to go on camera but he said that even though he’s a recovering addict himself, he doesn’t want this needle exchange in the neighborhood.

His sign says, “1 ounce of good is not worth a pound of harm to the community.”

The owner believes the program will only enable drug users’ addictions.

The sign on Lylas Family Espresso on the corner of North 90th Street and Aurora Avenue points to the north, but it’s really meant for the Aurora Commons just a couple of doors south.

“I want them to sit down, hash it out like adults and move on,” said neighbor Connie Watson. “Obviously this community needs a needle exchange.”

Aurora Commons provides a place for transients to make a meal on Aurora Avenue, but it also offers resources for people struggling with addiction and prostitution.

“Most of us wouldn’t want this in our neighborhood,” said Ben Katt, executive director of Aurora Commons. “We would much rather prefer for them to be in Pioneer Square, (but) it’s just not a sustainable approach for the city.”

But when the owner of the coffee shop learned about the plan, he put up the sign in protest.

“Being that he’s a recovering addict, he should understand, I think,” said drug addict Shawn Ross, who frequents Aurora Commons. “It boggles me why he wouldn’t.”

The coffee shop owner says Aurora Commons does plenty of good for the neighborhood and he’s only had problems with a handful of their clients.

But the commons’ director says they’re not quite ready to start the needle exchange just yet.

“I think the sign misleads people into thinking that this is already something we’ve decided on, when we’re at the very early stages of exploring this possibility,” said Katt.

Katt says they’re at least six months away from handing out clean needles, but he hopes to get more input from people and businesses in this neighborhood before they start – and not just from the coffee store owner.

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