Pubdate: Wed, 04 Feb 2009
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Larry Campbell
Bookmark: (Youth)


In 2002, during his inaugural address, Mayor Larry Campbell said:

"If we do our work well, we should be able to eliminate the open drug
market in the Downtown Eastside by the next election."

We know that didn't happen. Not by 2005. And not by the 2008 election
either. Here's Sen. Larry Campbell's take on why the problems of the
Downtown Eastside persist and what needs to happen to change things there:

Naive? Perhaps, although I am sure there are many who would use other
adjectives to describe my words in 2002. In fact, the open drug market was
composed of many diverse issues, intertwined to create the unsightly and
certainly unhealthy situation affecting citizens of the Downtown Eastside.

Mental illness, abuse, poverty, homelessness, the plight of the aboriginal
people and the high cost of any housing are all a part of the difficulties
faced in helping the Downtown Eastside. Are drugs involved? Of course, but
in many cases, the drug addiction is simply the result of the above-noted

Insite was a revolutionary idea for North America and necessary when it
opened in 2003. While some argue about the value of Insite, there can be
no doubt that it has prevented death, helped people get into treatment and
provided a place where disease is not spread through the use of shared

People forget that the visionary Four Pillars drug policy shepherded by
former mayor Philip Owen has for the most part been skewed toward
enforcement. Increased funding for prevention and treatment must be put in
place before we will see an appreciable drop in street addiction.

I believe that services should be available where there is a need.
Certainly, there is a need for services outside the Downtown Eastside, but
then who wants to admit they have an addiction problem in their tony

We need immediate support from all levels of government in building
housing for those who are mentally ill. Riverview should be renovated and
reopened to give the mentally ill a chance to receive treatment,
stabilization and hope for the future. I do not think we should ever go
back to the warehousing, but there is a requirement for some people to be

We need to help the aboriginal community in so many areas: education, job
training, healing from all of the societal abuse. Successive governments
federally have promised help for an aboriginal youth centre, but no funds
have been committed.

The City of Vancouver and the provincial government have moved to renovate
many of the substandard hotels that are home to people. Much more has to
be done. Successive governments at all levels have failed to provide the
funding and the wherewithal to build new housing for those at the lower
end of the socioeconomic scale. Traditionally these people have been
unemployed, uneducated and working at minimum-wage jobs. More and more,
this group of society includes our youth and those who are sometimes
classified as the working poor. How many people are one paycheque away
from the street?

There are an estimated 2,000-plus people living on our streets. Shelters
will keep them alive but do not replace the need for stable housing. In
the end, it will be housing that will help to heal the Downtown Eastside.

Make no mistake. This will take money and co-ordination. It will be done
with taxpayers' dollars. All levels of government must put aside any
ideological differences and work together.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doug