Businessman upset over proposed Aurora Ave. needle exchange

SEATTLE -- The owner of a coffee shop along Aurora Avenue isn't happy with a neighborhood non-profit that helps prostitutes and drug addicts, and he's making his feelings known.

The owner recently put up a sign at his shop that says the group's efforts -- which include a proposed needle exchange -- hurt more people than they help.

The shop is located near the busy intersection of 90th and Aurora, and just two doors away from Aurora Commons. The commons is a church-run organization where drug addicts, prostitutes and the homeless can come to feel safe, have some food and get help.

"They can use our kitchen and they can create a meal," said the organization's Lisa Etter Carlson.

Carlson oversees the non-profit and is looking at more ways to help sex workers and addicts. One of the ideas is to launch a safe needle exchange.

The cafe owner, who declined an interview request, has said a needle exchange would only attract more addicts to the neighborhood.

Connie Watson sees the sex workers and drug users along Aurora every day, and she admits the needle exchange could make the problems worse.

"There is a huge fear that comes along with the needle exchange," she said.

But Watson was recently stuck by a used needle while tossing out the trash, and she thinks a free exchange would be safer for everyone in the area.

"I had to go to the hospital, start treatments for hepatitis, HIV, everything that goes along with that," she said.

The cafe owner said he's trying to point out how helping a small number of people could make things worse for the rest of the neighborhood.

The non-profit has not finalized any plans for a needle exchange.

"I want us to get feedback from you and the neighborhood and other people about who we are and how we spend our days here," Carlson said.

The cafe owner happens to be a recovering addict who's been sober for 12 years, but he believes the needle exchange would enable addicts rather than help them.