The SBIA has penned an open letter to Vancouver Coastal Health and City Council regarding recent public consultations spearheaded by Vancouver Coastal Health with respect to the two new supervised injection sites in our community. A copy of the letter is below or click HERE to view our op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun.
Proposed locations for the sites are:
- The new DTES Mental Health and Substance Use Drop-In-Centre at 528 Powell
- The Heatley Integrated Health Centre at 330 Heatley
An open letter to Vancouver City Council and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH)
On September 21st, Vancouver Coastal Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer announced the location of two new proposed supervised injection sites for the Downtown Eastside (DTES), both of which are slated to open in early 2017 in Strathcona. As the representative body of 450 businesses, the Strathcona Business Improvement Association (SBIA) welcomes the opportunity for meaningful consultation on this important matter, because what our community comprising 9,000 residents and 7,000 employees has been afforded to-date borders on shameful.
With three open houses scheduled in the middle of the work day, during the middle of the week, we gather that ‘official’ consultation on this matter is now considered complete. This raises concern for us, not to mention the broader question as to whether this is the type of process Vancouverites can expect from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) when proposing supervised injection sites in other neighbourhoods.
In a hurry to prepare applications in response to a grave increase in overdose deaths throughout the city, VCH raced through the required process. Only a handful of the business owners and residents we work with were aware of the VCH-led open houses or had an opportunity to attend the sessions and provide input. The session I attended had less than twelve participants present.
The SBIA supports supervised injection sites and recognizes the need for these facilities, but they represent just one pillar of an overarching strategy. What is not clear at this juncture is what additional resources will be provided to support these new sites and ensure the safety of those who will use and work in them, as well as Strathcona residents, customers, and business owners who live, work and play in the community where these sites will soon operate.
As the city’s oldest neighbourhood, Strathcona has deep roots in the business community of modern Vancouver, serving as a gateway to the city for those arriving by road, sea and rail since the mid 1800’s. A “starter neighbourhood” historically, Strathcona remains a vibrant mix of industrial businesses and single family homes despite a noticeable lack of traditional amenities such as grocery stores, parks, neighbourhood pharmacies and walk-in health clinics, express transit service, sports fields, public pools or ice rinks, a community police centre, or even a post office.
Members of the SBIA are proud to be part of the DTES. However, ongoing public health issues like overdose related deaths in the area have prompted the need for renewed and meaningful dialogue with Vancouver’s policy makers on our urgent resourcing needs. Rubber stamping policies that address one issue, albeit a critical one, will not solve the broader problems communities will encounter, and could easily create new ones.
Strathcona business owners already cite safety as a primary concern due to an increase in homelessness, open substance use, and often, misinformation about the issues at hand. Currently, the Vancouver Police Department’s DTES BEAT Patrol ends at Gore Street, the border of Strathcona, but there were no indications at the VCH open houses that additional resources will be directed to the help the VPD extend their patrol into Strathcona, which experiences the same issues that are prevalent a few blocks away.
Supervised injection sites cannot exist in a silo, removed from the broader community fabric, especially amongst the mix of businesses and homes bordering the two new sites. In order to truly move the dial on issues that affect all Vancouver neighbourhoods, we need to work together – government, business, residents and advocates – to develop holistic approaches that address the health challenges we currently face. This begins with up-front, open and collaborative stakeholder engagement to ensure the community understands the importance and impact of supervised injection sites, and continues with a multipronged approach to both harm reduction and safety.
The Strathcona Business Improvement Association welcomes the opportunity to host a working session with members of Vancouver City Council, Vancouver Coastal Health and any business owner, resident, or stakeholder that wishes to build a better city.
We hope you will be in touch.
Strathcona Business Improvement Association