Pubdate: Mon, 13 Sep 2004
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Vancouver Courier
Author: David Carrigg
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


The Downtown Eastside's largest needle exchange is without a home as
city staff negotiate with residents over a controversial plan to
relocate the exchange to the corner of Carrall and Hastings streets.

Allan Rosco, spokesman for the Downtown Eastside Youth Activities
Society, which operates the needle exchange, said the society was
confident it would receive a city permit to relocate when it applied
to move last October.

The society did not renew its lease for its location on the 200-block
of Main Street, where the exchange had been headquartered for years.
That lease expired at the end of July.

"We had no reason to believe that we would not get the permit on time,
so when it fell through at virtually the last minute we still had to
move out," Rosco said. "The program has existed for 15 years and we
only need to move three blocks to a smaller space."

Nathan Edelson, city planner responsible for the Downtown Eastside,
said concerns from residents living near Carrall and Hastings were
behind the delay. The residents are worried about the exchange opening
in a neighbourhood where an open illegal drug market exists.

On April 7, the city sent letters to 235 property owners near the
exchange's proposed new site, a former retail store with Hastings
Street frontage alongside the Interurban Art Gallery. Both the gallery
and proposed needle exchange site are controlled by the PHS Community
Services Society.

The proposal was for a 300-square-foot walk-in needle exchange, where
drug users would bring in their used needles and exchange them for new
ones. Clients would also receive clean water, bleach, filters,
condoms, and health care information. The exchange would serve 200
clients a day.

Edelson said the city is currently sending out letters to the
residents opposed to the relocation plan, asking them to attend a
meeting with city planners, police and DEYAS.

Edelson said DEYAS is qualified to operate a needle exchange, which he
said is needed in the drug-ravaged community. But the debate centres
on whether the corner of Carrall and Hastings is the best location.
Carrall Street will undergo a multimillion dollar restoration in the
next few years to create a greenway linking Burrard Inlet to False

If concerned residents attending the meeting are not satisfied with a
proposed Good Neighbour Agreement signed by DEYAS, the permit issue
will be referred to the development permit board. If the residents
support the Good Neighbour Agreement, the city's director of planning
will recommend city council approve the relocation.

Rosco said DEYAS's mobile needle exchange van routinely drives by the
closed exchange on Main Street to ensure users receive needles. There
are also other venues in the Downtown Eastside where addicts can get
free needles, including the supervised injection site on the 100-block
of East Hastings.

DEYAS distributes three million needles a year.
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