Eastside Stories is a blog that is open to everyone, and I encourage you to share your thoughts, opinions and questions on the topics we discuss. All comments must be approved prior to appearing in the blog. Though there may be times when your comment is not approved immediately, don’t fret. If it meets the standard of respectful discourse it will be published. Comments containing inappropriate language, and those I deem to be in poor taste or disrespectful, will not. Below are some of the questions I received this week.
Is there a reason that the person injecting heroin didn’t go to Insite to do it?
When I find someone shooting up on the street instead of at Insite, I make a point to ask him or her why. There are a few common excuses. Some people are desperate for their fix. So desperate, that once they score dope they say they have to use it right away. Others admit they just don’t want to wait in line at Insite, or say they have been barred from the facility. Some are forced to sell drugs by non-addicted, predatory drug dealers (more about this in a later post), and they’re not allowed to leave their block until they’ve finished work. They can’t wait that long, so they shoot up between deals.
A couple years ago I found one woman injecting heroin into the throat of another, as she lay on her back in the lane behind the Carnegie Centre. The reason? After years of hardcore drug use, the girl being injected could no longer find veins in her arms and legs. The only vein she could find was in her neck, and she needed help to do it. Since Insite does not allow people to inject each other, she decided to have someone do it behind the community centre.
The pictures are dramatic and expressive but I was wondering – do you get permission to take them of the people? Does anyone give you any problems?
I’m interested to know how the residents are faring with all the new development. Are locals actually finding housing, and being treated as part of the community, or are they decamping to other troubled areas just a Skytrain ride away? I’m curious. What do you think?
Gentrification is a bit of a dirty word with some on the Downtown Eastside. There has been a fair amount of new development along Hastings Street, particularly with the Woodward’s project in the 100 West Hastings. Other redevelopments include Paris Block in the 000 W Hastings Street and 60 West Cordova. The province and the City of Vancouver have done a pretty good job at factoring in low-income housing for new projects like Woodward’s, and have partnered to purchase and fix-up a number of old hotels. The issue remains quite political as the civic election looms. It’s hard for me to answer your questions with specificity, because I simply don’t have the information. What I can do is speak generally.
The Woodward’s redevelopment was already underway when I began working on the Downtown Eastside. At that time, there were still a number of rooming houses on the south side of the 100 West Hastings. Those SROs have since been shut and the tenants displaced.
While it appears Woodward’s has made a marked improvement to the block, it does not appear this project and other new developments have forced large numbers of people out of the Downtown Eastside. If anything, it’s pushed people a block or two down East Hastings Street.
One of the reasons why the Downtown Eastside has such a high number of homeless, mentally ill and drug addicted people is because this is where the services for these people are concentrated. Generally speaking, this is still where the cheapest rents are. It’s still the easiest place to score dope. And it’s not hard to find a free meal.
Some argue that as long as the majority of the services for the poor, addicted and mentally ill remain in this concentrated area, the people who need those services will continue to live here.
So, that said, here are a few questions for you: Should we continue to concentrate services such as shelters, needle exchanges, bottle depots, low-income housing and soup kitchens in the Downtown Eastside? Or, would we be better off spreading out the services to areas like Dunbar, Kerrisdale or Collingwood? Do you think spreading these services throughout Vancouver would help decrease the concentration of poverty, drugs, violence and prostitution in the Downtown Eastside? What kind of impact would it have on other areas of the city?
I’d be interested to know your position on Insite. There was a time when I would have supported it, but as the years roll by I realize that the numbers for success are just not there. I personally feel we require the 4 pillars, and that doesn’t seem to be part of the equation.
There is perhaps no other topic in the Downtown Eastside that is as polarizing as Insite. The facility, located in the 100 block of East Hastings Street, opened in 2003 as North America’s first legal supervised injection site. Intravenous drug users can legally use Insite to inject themselves with drugs, under the watch of nurses.
Insite operates under a constitutional exemption to Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. In other words, it’s not illegal to possess and consume drugs like heroin and cocaine at Insite.
Insite has been around the Downtown Eastside much longer than I have, so it’s hard for me to judge the difference it’s made. I don’t really have a baseline to reference.
When Insite opened, the Vancouver Police Department’s position what that it was in favour of any legal measure that might have a chance to reduce the drug problem on the Downtown Eastside.
The department’s interest has always been public safety. That’s our business. Our mandate is not research and it’s not public health, and the police department has made it clear it has no interest in taking a stand in the political and medical debate. I’m not prepared to do so either in this blog.
How do you get your employer to support your blog?
Members of the Vancouver Police Department have a history of being on the cutting edge when it comes to using media to educate and inform people about the tragic and wasted lives on the Downtown Eastside.
Sgt. Toby Hinton, (Ret.) Const. Al Arsenault and the rest of the Odd Squad led the way with Through a Blue Lens, produced in 1999 by the National Film Board of Canada. The officers carried video cameras on the beat to document the existence of several Downtown Eastside residents and their fight to survive.
Odd Squad Productions, a registered society and charity, has since produced a number of educational videos and documentaries, including Stolen Lives and Tears for April, which documents the life and death of April Reoch on Skid Row.
Odd Squad members continue to travel the country to share their stories with youth, and frequently take high-school students and young athletes on walk-alongs through the Downtown Eastside to give them a first-hand look at the horror.
Constable Sandra Glendinning carried on the tradition started by the Odd Squad when she launched her own blog, Behind the Blue Line, in 2008. Constable Glendinning spent eight years working Vancouver’s Eastside, and is only the second female officer to serve on the department’s Dog Squad. In addition to her blog, Constable Glendinning writes a weekly column for the Vancouver Sun, which appears in the paper’s Friday Driving section.
Most recently, VPD entered the Twitterverse, launching a Twitter account in December 2010 and featuring a Tweet-a-long in which a VPD constable tweeted updates throughout her patrol shift on the city’s eastside.Share