Pubdate: Tue, 20 Jun 2006
Source: Business In Vancouver (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 BIV Publications Ltd.
Author: Julie Hughes


Re: Four pillars drug strategy not supporting business or taxpayer 
needs in Vancouver (BIV letters to the editor; issue 867; June 6 -- 12)

In response to Cheryl Savchenko's letter and this ongoing debate with 
regards to the Four Pillars Coalition, I feel that I need to defend 
Sam Sullivan and the coalition because it has made a huge difference 
in the decreased number of overdose-related deaths and in helping to 
keep our city streets clean.

I work for a large non-profit organization in the Downtown East Side 
and I couldn't disagree more with Cheryl's argument. I understand her 
fear and concerns, however, that attitude is simply enabling the 
growth of this problem to continue.

A recent article from the London press states that London is on the 
verge of adopting the same safe injection policy as we have here in 
Canada and that also exists in Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, 
Switzerland, Spain, Norway and Luxembourg.

This system has proven to be effective on many levels. The most 
visible being how these safe injection sites across the world save 
lives and keep drugs off the streets.

As for the recent trend towards neighbourhood housing for these 
people, the closing of Riverview hospital has more to do with this 
decentralization than anything else. As for the people who are being 
sent to live in these residential units, most of them suffer from 
some form of mental illness that requires them to live in an 
environment that's safe, supported and conducive to their treatment. 
The idea that they're all drug addicts, thieves and prostitutes is 
naive and is promoting a fear-based attitude that will only lead to 
further despair.

We run several residential and emergency shelters at our 
organization, three of which are located outside of the Downtown East 
Side, in Burnaby, the North Shore and East Vancouver.

With the opening of each shelter, we encountered much resistance from 
concerned families and residents in the neighborhood. Now years 
later, however, they're thanking us for allowing these people to be 
treated with dignity and to be given the same respect we all deserve.

There has not been any increase in theft, crime, violence or 
prostitution in these areas, and I believe that is because once these 
people are removed from the destructive environments they are able to 
focus on recovery and not be persuaded to self-medicate with drugs.

This is an essential part of their treatment. How do you expect 
people to get well in an area that makes them more susceptible to the 
pressures of drugs and crime?

Julie Hughes, Development Associate/Community Liaison OfficerSt. 
James Community Service Society
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