Picture taken of “E” Saturday, May 20, 2023, 10:32 am

Hi there. I need some help solving the problems of poverty, drug addiction and mental health issues in the downtown east side of Vancouver. Any ideas?

Addressing poverty, drug addiction, and mental health issues in a community requires a multi-faceted approach involving various stakeholders and resources. While I can provide you with some general ideas, it’s important to note that implementing comprehensive solutions will require collaboration with local organizations, government agencies, and community members. Here are some potential strategies to consider:

  1. Access to Basic Necessities: Ensure individuals have access to safe housing, nutritious food, clean water, and hygienic facilities. Collaborate with local shelters, food banks, and organizations providing essential supplies.
  2. Employment and Skill Development: Support job training programs, vocational education, and employment opportunities to empower individuals to break the cycle of poverty. Encourage partnerships with local businesses for job placement and skill-building initiatives.
  3. Addiction Treatment and Harm Reduction: Increase access to addiction treatment services, including detoxification programs, rehabilitation centers, and counselling services. Support harm reduction strategies such as needle exchange programs and supervised injection sites.
  4. Mental Health Support: Establish mental health clinics, counselling services, and support groups to address the specific needs of individuals dealing with mental health issues. Advocate for increased funding for mental health services and work towards reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.
  5. Education and Awareness: Develop educational campaigns to raise awareness about poverty, drug addiction, and mental health issues. Educate the community about the importance of empathy, understanding, and destigmatization.
  6. Community Engagement: Foster community involvement by organizing regular community meetings, forums, and workshops to gather input from residents and stakeholders. Encourage collaboration between community members, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and businesses.
  7. Supportive Housing: Increase the availability of supportive housing options that provide a safe and stable environment for individuals struggling with poverty, addiction, and mental health issues. These housing options should include on-site support services.
  8. Outreach and Street Outreach Programs: Deploy outreach teams to engage with individuals living on the streets, offering resources, assistance, and guidance. Provide mobile health clinics, harm reduction supplies, and connections to support services.
  9. Collaboration with Law Enforcement: Work collaboratively with law enforcement agencies to develop programs that prioritize diversion, rehabilitation, and support over punitive measures for individuals involved in drug addiction or low-level offences.
  10. Long-term Sustainability: Advocate for sustainable funding and resources from local, provincial, and federal governments to ensure the longevity of programs and initiatives. Continually evaluate the effectiveness of implemented strategies and make necessary adjustments.

Remember, these are broad strategies, and the specific implementation will vary depending on the resources, expertise, and needs of the community. It’s crucial to engage with local stakeholders and organizations to develop a comprehensive plan tailored to the downtown east side of Vancouver.

That all sounds pretty reasonable actually. How do we make it happen?

To make these strategies a reality, it’s important to follow a systematic and collaborative approach. Here are some steps to help you get started:

  1. Identify Key Stakeholders: Identify and engage with key stakeholders in the community, including local government representatives, community organizations, non-profits, healthcare providers, law enforcement agencies, and individuals affected by these issues. Build partnerships and create a coalition of organizations committed to addressing poverty, drug addiction, and mental health issues.
  2. Needs Assessment: Conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to understand the specific challenges faced by the downtown east side of Vancouver. This assessment should involve collecting data, conducting interviews, and engaging with community members to gain insights into the underlying causes and factors contributing to poverty, drug addiction, and mental health issues.
  3. Collaborative Planning: Organize regular meetings and workshops with stakeholders to develop a collaborative action plan. Identify shared goals, prioritize strategies, allocate responsibilities, and establish timelines for implementation. Ensure that the plan reflects the unique needs and aspirations of the community.
  4. Resource Mobilization: Seek funding and resources from government agencies, philanthropic organizations, corporate sponsors, and other potential sources. Develop grant proposals, engage in fundraising activities, and explore public-private partnerships to secure the necessary resources for implementation.
  5. Program Development and Implementation: Based on the action plan, develop and implement specific programs and initiatives that address poverty, drug addiction, and mental health issues. Ensure these programs are evidence-based, culturally sensitive, and responsive to the needs of the community. Monitor and evaluate their effectiveness regularly.
  6. Advocacy and Policy Change: Advocate for policy changes at the local, provincial, and federal levels to support your initiatives. Engage with policymakers, present research and evidence, and highlight the potential benefits of investing in comprehensive solutions. Collaborate with advocacy groups and grassroots organizations to amplify your voice.
  7. Community Engagement and Education: Engage the community by conducting public awareness campaigns, educational workshops, and community forums. Involve community members in the decision-making process and encourage active participation. Foster a sense of ownership and responsibility within the community.
  8. Continuous Evaluation and Adaptation: Regularly evaluate the progress of your initiatives and programs. Collect data, measure outcomes, and solicit feedback from stakeholders and community members. Use this information to make adjustments, refine strategies, and improve the effectiveness of your efforts.
  9. Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing: Collaborate with other communities, organizations, and experts who have successfully addressed similar challenges. Share knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned. Attend conferences, workshops, and networking events to stay informed about innovative approaches and opportunities for collaboration.
  10. Persistence and Long-term Commitment: Addressing poverty, drug addiction, and mental health issues is a complex and long-term process. Maintain a strong commitment to the cause, persevere through challenges, and adapt your strategies as needed. Celebrate successes along the way to sustain motivation and momentum.

Remember, building partnerships, engaging the community, and fostering a collaborative approach are crucial to making these strategies a reality. By working together, you can make a positive and lasting impact on the downtown east side of Vancouver.

Not everyone agrees on the best way forward though. Many people in Vancouver seem to be stuck on the housing issue. Meanwhile, people are dying.

You’re right that finding consensus on the best way forward can be challenging, particularly when dealing with complex issues like poverty, drug addiction, mental health, and housing. It’s essential to acknowledge that these issues are interconnected and require a comprehensive approach. While housing is a critical aspect, addressing the root causes and providing support for mental health and addiction are also crucial components of a holistic solution.

To navigate these challenges, here are a few additional suggestions:

  1. Facilitate Dialogue: Create spaces for open and respectful dialogue among stakeholders, including community members, activists, policymakers, experts, and service providers. Encourage active listening and a diversity of perspectives. Seek common ground and shared goals to foster understanding and collaboration.
  2. Engage Experts and Research: Involve experts in the field who can provide evidence-based insights and guidance. Research the effectiveness of different approaches and use this information to inform discussions and decision-making. Sharing data and research findings can help dispel myths, build understanding, and guide policy development.
  3. Seek Innovative Solutions: Encourage innovative thinking and consider unconventional approaches to address these complex issues. Look for successful models and best practices from other cities or countries that have tackled similar challenges. Pilot projects and small-scale experiments can help test new ideas and gather evidence of their effectiveness.
  4. Communicate the Urgency: Highlight the urgent need to address these issues, emphasizing the impact on human lives and the broader community. Share stories and statistics that illustrate the severity of the situation. Use various communication channels, including media, social platforms, and community events, to raise awareness and mobilize support.
  5. Coalition Building: Build coalitions and alliances with organizations, advocacy groups, and community leaders who share similar goals and values. Collaborate on joint initiatives and leverage collective resources, expertise, and networks to amplify your efforts. Working together can increase your collective impact and strengthen your advocacy.
  6. Identify Short-term and Long-term Goals: Recognize that solving these complex issues requires both short-term and long-term strategies. While immediate actions are needed to address the urgency, it’s also important to develop long-term plans that focus on prevention, early intervention, and sustainable solutions.
  7. Policy Advocacy: Engage in advocacy efforts to influence policies and secure government support. Work with policymakers, elected officials, and relevant government agencies to prioritize these issues on their agendas. Provide them with research, data, and testimonies to illustrate the necessity of comprehensive approaches.
  8. Amplify Personal Stories: Share personal stories of individuals who have experienced poverty, addiction, or mental health challenges. Personal narratives can help humanize the issues and create empathy, fostering a deeper understanding among the public and policymakers.
  9. Engage the Media: Work with the media to raise awareness about the complex nature of these issues and the need for a comprehensive approach. Encourage balanced reporting that provides an accurate portrayal of the challenges faced by the community and highlights potential solutions.
  10. Foster Collaboration between Housing and Support Services: Bridge the gap between housing initiatives and support services by fostering collaboration and coordination among relevant stakeholders. Recognize that housing alone may not be sufficient without addressing mental health, addiction, and other underlying issues.

By employing these strategies, you can navigate the challenges of differing opinions and priorities and work towards a comprehensive approach that addresses the immediate needs while also tackling the root causes of poverty, drug addiction, mental health issues, and housing instability.

It’s difficult to amplify a “personal story” when said person is currently in active addiction and refuses help. That feels like exploitation. Though, I feel like it’s important for decision-makers to know what’s actually going on for people down here.

You raise a valid concern about respecting the privacy and dignity of individuals who are currently in active addiction and may not be in a position to share their personal stories. It is crucial to prioritize their well-being and avoid exploiting their experiences.

In situations where individuals are unable or unwilling to share their stories directly, there are alternative approaches to conveying the realities faced by people in the downtown east side of Vancouver:

  1. Anonymous Testimonials: Gather anonymous testimonials from individuals who have experienced poverty, addiction, or mental health challenges. This can be done through surveys, interviews, or focus groups, ensuring strict confidentiality and privacy. Share these testimonials in a way that protects the identity of the individuals involved.
  2. Advocate Voices: Collaborate with individuals who have overcome addiction or mental health challenges and are now in a stable position to share their experiences. Their stories can provide valuable insights into the struggles faced by others and the importance of comprehensive support systems.
  3. Expert Perspectives: Engage experts in the field, including healthcare providers, social workers, counsellors, and researchers, who work closely with individuals experiencing poverty, addiction, and mental health issues. They can provide professional insights and share anonymized case studies to illustrate the challenges faced by the community.
  4. Data and Statistics: Utilize data and statistics to highlight the prevalence and impact of poverty, addiction, and mental health issues in the downtown east side of Vancouver. Presenting objective information can help decision-makers understand the magnitude of the problem and the urgency of taking action.
  5. Collaborative Community Forums: Organize community forums or town hall meetings that provide a platform for individuals to share their experiences in a supportive and safe environment. Encourage participants to speak voluntarily and ensure that their privacy is respected.

Remember that the ultimate goal is to create understanding, empathy, and awareness among decision-makers and the wider public. Prioritize ethical and responsible storytelling that respects the dignity and privacy of individuals while shedding light on the challenges faced by the community.

There is a young woman that I’ve been keeping my eye on for a few days. For her privacy, I will call her “E”. E is a rail-thin Caucasian woman with brilliant gold/green eyes and a shaved head. I have seen here around off and on for the last two years since I’ve had my Chinatown studio. For the last few days, she has been in various states of distress on the sidewalk outside of my studio. She has no belongings as the meagre belongings she did have were abandoned and have since disappeared. Yesterday I felt it necessary to get involved in her life as she was unconscious and laying half in the street. She had no top on and her trousers were pulled part way down. She was very exposed to harm, not only from passersby, and road vehicles, but from the glaring sun. I called 911 hoping they could intervene. She has a broken ankle and a serious infection. For some unknown reason, she has used black acrylic paint to paint her legs, which are also covered in scabs. She was vomiting terrible-looking brownish bile. However, in spite of her obvious need for it, she refused care. This meant that the police, fire and ambulance staff could do nothing.

I’m sorry to hear about the distressing situation you’ve witnessed with this individual. It’s understandable that you’re concerned for her well-being. Here are some steps you can take to try and help her:

  1. Reach out to local outreach organizations: Contact local organizations that provide outreach services to individuals experiencing homelessness, addiction, or mental health issues in the downtown east side of Vancouver. They may have trained professionals who can engage with her and offer assistance.
  2. Contact non-emergency services: If immediate medical attention is not required, consider contacting non-emergency services such as local social services or crisis hotlines. They can provide guidance on how to handle the situation and connect you with appropriate resources.
  3. Document and report the situation: Take notes or pictures of the condition you’ve observed, making sure to respect her privacy. This documentation may be helpful when reporting the situation to relevant authorities or organizations.
  4. Inform local law enforcement: If you witness any imminent danger or threatening situations, you can inform local law enforcement about your concerns. They can assess the situation and provide guidance on how to proceed.
  5. Collaborate with community organizations: Reach out to community organizations that work specifically with individuals in crisis situations or those experiencing homelessness. They may have experience and resources to address complex situations and provide appropriate support.

Remember that every situation is unique, and it’s essential to approach these circumstances with empathy, respect, and understanding. While you may have good intentions, the individual may not be ready or willing to accept help at this moment. However, reaching out to organizations that specialize in crisis intervention and homelessness can increase the likelihood of connecting her with the necessary support services.

I spoke at length with the responders (fire, ambulance and police) who ended up coming twice yesterday. She has made the decision to slowly kill herself. When I told her that I was worried she was going to die out here, her response was, “I hope I do!”. I assume that she has some sort of trauma that has brought her to this point. She doesn’t want any help other than the water I keep bringing her. I have been checking on her every 15-30 minutes for the past two days. I just have to hope that when it’s time for me to go home, someone else will watch out for her. Do you know of an agency in the DTES that could help in this situation?

I’m sorry to hear about the difficult situation you’re facing with this individual. It’s disheartening when someone is unwilling to accept help, especially when their well-being is at stake. In the downtown east side of Vancouver, there are several organizations that may be able to provide assistance or guidance in such situations. Here are a few resources you can consider reaching out to:

  1. Vancouver Coastal Health: They provide a range of healthcare services, including mental health and addiction support. You can contact their Access and Assessment Center at 1-866-658-1221 for guidance and referrals.
  2. Lookout Housing and Health Society: Lookout operates several housing and health programs in the downtown east side. They provide shelter, transitional housing, and support services. You can reach out to them for advice and potential assistance for this individual.
  3. Union Gospel Mission (UGM): UGM offers various services for individuals experiencing homelessness and addiction, including meals, shelter, and addiction recovery programs. They may be able to provide guidance on how to approach the situation and connect you with appropriate resources.
  4. The Portland Hotel Society (PHS): PHS is a non-profit organization that provides housing, harm reduction, and support services in the downtown east side. They have experience working with individuals with complex needs and may be able to offer assistance or referrals.
  5. Overdose Prevention Society: This organization focuses on overdose prevention and harm reduction. They have volunteers who provide support and resources to individuals struggling with addiction. They may be able to offer guidance on how to approach the situation and provide harm-reduction supplies.

Remember to emphasize the urgency and critical nature of the situation when contacting these organizations. They may be able to provide insights, advice, or direct you to other appropriate resources. It’s important to recognize that supporting someone who is unwilling to accept help can be challenging, but reaching out to these organizations can provide you with additional guidance and potential avenues for assistance.

Update: I left the studio at 5 pm on Saturday and offered E the option to call anyone she wanted. She refused. I checked on her Sunday morning and she was crawling around the sidewalk crab-style. She seemed lucid and basically ‘okay’ all things considered. Though, I didn’t speak to her at that time. When I went to check on her on Monday, I couldn’t find her. I really hope that she found somewhere warm and safe to be. 

I appreciate your concern and the efforts you’ve made to check on her well-being. It’s unfortunate that you couldn’t locate her on Monday, but I hope that she did find a warm and safe place to be. It’s possible that she may have connected with outreach workers or sought shelter elsewhere.

While it’s challenging to know her exact situation, it’s important to remember that there are various support services and organizations available in the downtown east side of Vancouver that may have been able to offer assistance. If you come across similar situations in the future, you can continue reaching out to local organizations and authorities for guidance.

Thank you for your compassion and efforts to look out for those in need. Your concern and actions make a difference in the lives of individuals facing homelessness and other challenges.