Pubdate: Sat, 15 Oct 2016
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Geordon Omand
Page: S4


Pop-up facility in Downtown Eastside may be illegal, but it has been
welcomed by addicts who don't feel comfortable at nearby Insite

Sarah Blyth was weary of rushing to counteract an overdose every time
someone screamed "Narcan!" from a nearby alley in Vancouver's Downtown
Eastside, so she joined other activists to set up a supervised
drug-consumption tent for addicts.

Ms. Blyth acknowledges the so called pop-up site is illegal, but said
she couldn't stand by and watch as people overdosed.

"We're just trying to help," said the former mental health worker who
oversees a market space behind the small drug-consumption site where
she volunteers. "It would be great if it wasn't needed. But it is."

The tent includes a half-dozen folding tables and various supplies
including syringes, gloves and the overdose-reversing drug naloxone,
known commercially as Narcan. It's just around the corner from Insite,
North America's first legal supervised-injection site.

The tent gives people who, for whatever reason, won't visit Insite and
still want a place that is comfortable and safe to use their drugs and
where someone can keep an eye on them in case of an overdose, said Ms.
Blyth, who is among the volunteers trained to use naloxone.

The pop-up facility operates 10 hours a day, and Ms. Blyth estimates
it has served about 100 people daily since opening more than three
weeks ago.

The site is technically illegal, though Ms. Blyth said police have not
intervened. "It's one thing to hear about it or read about it in the
newspapers. It's another thing to see it first-hand," she said of overdoses.

The city of Vancouver said in a statement that while it supports
efforts to save drug users' lives, the alley facility is neither
sanctioned nor connected to the city.

Anna Marie D'Angelo, a spokeswoman for Vancouver Coastal Health, said
the overdose-management site and its operators aren't connected to the
health authority. "We can't fault their intentions but we can't
support or condone it," Ms. D'Angelo said Thursday. "It's not legal."

Joel Nichols and Robin Wolfe use crystal methamphetamine and said
they've been visiting the tent site since it opened.

Ms. Wolfe described the space as more welcoming than Insite, adding
she couldn't visit the official safe-injection site because it only
allows drugs consumed by syringe and that she smokes her drugs. "It's
a lot safer for me to come here" compared with being on the streets,
she said.

Mr. Nichols uses a needle to take drugs but said he still prefers the
tent site.

"I don't know why I prefer it," he said, shrugging. "I just do."
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