urban health

Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is a ghetto made by outsiders

Ask yourself if you have ever thought this:

You drive down Hastings Street through the Downtown Eastside. You see the roiling parade of stumblebums and addicts on the sidewalks, the rows of ruined buildings.

You feel disgust. Or perhaps pity. Or anger and frustration that the efforts of police, government and a multitude of social welfare agencies encamped there have, for decades, had no effect on the obvious problems you see, that this festering sore in the heart of Vancouver continues to be a sinkhole to hundreds of millions of your tax dollars.

260 agencies, housing sites crowd Downtown Eastside

Nearly $1 million a day is spent providing low-cost housing, social services and other support to vulnerable residents of the Downtown Eastside, a Vancouver Sun investigation has found.

The news outlet compiled, for the first time in recent history, a list of every agency that operates in the Downtown Eastside or provides a service there, and also tallied the organizations’ annual revenues.

In 2013, $360 million was spent by 260 agencies and housing sites to help roughly 6,500 people. Most are poor; many have addictions or mental health challenges.

Canadian Model Sex Work Legislation Hurts Most Vulnerable

The Conservative government has released their new proposed legislation on prostitution, and sadly, it is pretty much what you would expect. You can read a summary of the new bill here and the complete text here.

Vancouver braces for rising homeless count

Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost , PNG

Less than a week before the newest homelessness count for Metro Vancouver comes out, the city of Vancouver says it is bracing for a dramatic increase in people on the street.

In what was termed an “urgent update” to council, city manager Penny Ballem on Wednesday said a worst-case scenario could see the city experience a 25-per-cent increase in homelessness.

B.C. boosts capacity of Providence team that helps homeless Vancouver youth

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop , PNG

The provincial government doubled the capacity on Wednesday of Vancouver’s Inner City Youth team, which helps homeless or nearly homeless youth with mental illness or addictions.

The team includes psychiatrists and other mental health and support workers, and does work in downtown Vancouver and at St. Paul’s Hospital.

St. Paul's among study showing homeless costs the same as leaving them on streets

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop , Vancouver Sun

For every $10 invested in housing the mentally ill or drug addicted, $9.60 was saved in taxpayer-funded services such as emergency rooms and shelter beds, according to a $110-million national study.

In other words, by spending four-per-cent more, society’s most troubled homeless people could transition from living in precarious or no housing with little support to a safe place with services to help them stabilize.

“On average, the intervention comes close to paying for itself among high-needs participants,” says the final report involving the At Home/Chez Soi project.

PHC Heroin Trial - The pros and cons of prescribing to addicts

Doctors treating addicts from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside have been asking the federal government to extend a trial program under which they were allowed to write prescriptions for diacetylmorphine. Health Minister Rona Ambrose has opposed extending the program. On March 25, Providence Health Care took the doctors' case before the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Why is diacetylmorphine controversial? Because it's better known by the trade name it had before it was made illegal: Heroin.

Pete McMartin: A fruitless quest to save the Downtown Eastside

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop , Vancouver Sun

Mary Morgan has seen the worst the world has to offer. Guatemala, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Afghanistan, Zambia, Zimbabwe — her consultancy work in developing nations has given her first-hand experience with war, poverty and disease. She has worked for CARE, CIDA, and the International Rescue Committee, among others.

But nothing prepared her for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

In 2002, she stepped into the job of executive director of Partners for Economic and Community Help (PEACH). The previous executive director had left, and Morgan was hired for the job.

'We Were Seen as Quite Scary': PHS's Townsend

 Photo: Matt Kieltyka/Metro

There was a sense of relief in Vancouver on the morning of Dec. 14, 2002 when squatters began taking down their tent city around the vacant Woodward's building, filling six dumpsters with trash. The peaceful dismantling of the 92-day Woodsquat was largely organized by the Portland Hotel Society. The group's credibility with street people helped avert a potentially violent riot and expensive police action.

NS News Editorial on PHC Heroin Case

After years study, a group of B.C. doctors applied to Health Canada for permission to prescribe heroin to 21 addicts last fall. Permission was granted.

It was right about then that mollifying the Conservative base trumped science.

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose denounced her own department's decision. She also promised to close up drug access program “loopholes,” thereby reducing years of study to nothing more than a crooked accountant's sleight of numbers trick.


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