Pubdate: Wed, 02 Apr 2003
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 Vancouver Courier
Author: David Carrigg


Two government-funded needle distributors are now operating out of the same 
Downtown Eastside hotel.

For the past three years, the Consumer Board of the Downtown 
Eastside-funded by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority-has distributed 
about 6,000 needles a month from a second-floor office in the Washington 
Hotel, at 177 East Hastings St.

Now the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), which is also funded 
by the health authority, has packed up its outdoor needle exchange in the 
lane next to the Carnegie Centre and moved across the road to the hotel

Ann Livingston, VANDU's executive director, said that unlike the Consumer 
Board, VANDU does not require that those using its service be Washington 
Hotel residents or friends of residents.

Livingston said the move was prompted by VANDU's ability to get space 
inside the Washington Hotel as well as concerns for the safety of volunteers.

"Now the volunteers will be inside, where it's safer for them," Livingston 
said. "The Consumer Board are a small operation and it's not easy to get 
into the hotel at night."

The Consumer Board operates its exchange from 11 a.m. to 6 a.m.

The society distributes about 1,500 needles a week, compared to VANDU, 
which claims to distribute about 1,000 needles a night since it set up shop 
in the hotel a few weeks ago. The VANDU program operates from midnight to 8 
a.m. and is also a reloading station for mobile dispensing of needles.

Contacted by the Courier Monday, no one from the Consumer Board was willing 
to comment on the record about VANDU's move.

However, the society had apparently been trying for the past several months 
to lease the room where VANDU now operates. The society was also not 
informed that VANDU had set up shop in the same building to provide 
essentially the same service.

The Consumer Board of the Downtown Eastside formed as a non-profit society 
in 1998, the same year VANDU came into being.

Naomi Brumemeyer, spokeswoman for the health authority, said the authority 
was not concerned about two funded groups providing the same service.

Vandu receives about $120,000 per year to operate its needle exchange, 
while the Consumer Board receives a significantly smaller amount.

Brumemeyer said the Consumer Board program is cheap to operate, while the 
decision to place the VANDU operation in the Washington Hotel was made by 
the Portland Hotel Society.

Both societies receive their Vancouver Coastal Health Authority funding 
through the Portland Hotel Society.

The Portland Hotel Society-one of the largest non profit societies 
operating on skid row-controls the Washington Hotel and the Sunrise Hotel 
at the other end of the 100-block of East Hastings, as well as a string of 
other buildings and government-funded programs.

Judy McGuire, spokeswoman for the Downtown Eastside Youth Activities 
Society, which oversees distribution of about three million needles a year, 
said there are already several ways for injection drug addicts to get 
needles, including through DEYAS, the Dr. Peter Centre, the Consumer Board, 
the Portland Hotel Society and street nurses.
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