Pubdate: Fri, 27 Jan 2017
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Pamela Roth


In an effort to address the concerns of neighbours nervous about the
new overdose prevention site at Our Place, 24-hour security has been
added to patrol a two-block area of Pandora Avenue and Johnson Street.

The decision to add security patrols wasn't based on any unusual
activity in the area, noted Our Place spokesperson Grant McKenzie, but
is simply to make sure its neighbours feel safe.

"We haven't seen an increase in drug dealing in the area, but whenever
there's vulnerable people, those are going to be the customers the
drug dealers are looking for so there's always going to be drug
dealers around. It's something we certainly don't want to see," said
McKenzie, noting the neighbouring Victoria Conservatory of Music has a
lot of children coming and going.

"They have concerts at night so we wanted to make sure they are
feeling safe and secure."

In response to the growing number of drug-related deaths, the province
has set up overdose prevention sites at overdose hot spots in
Vancouver and Victoria - including one that opened in December in the
Our Place courtyard.

The small orange shipping container being used as the site contains
drug supplies, a peer support worker to provide education and a
paramedic on hand at all times in case of an overdose. During its
first month of operation, about 115 people visited the site more than
1,500 times, averaging between 55 to 65 visits per day.

So far, 25 overdoses have occurred, but none of them have been fatal.
About 20 new people use the site every week, with 70 per cent of them
between the ages of 19 and 39.

Another overdose prevention site has been set up at the housing
facility at 844 Johnson Street, where the bulk of tent city residents
now live, and a third site is planned to open soon in Rock Bay.

Andy Bond, senior director of housing for Portland Housing Society
(PHS), which operates the facility on Johnson Street, said the
overdose prevention site (for residents only) is averaging about 20
users per day and has had at least three interventions since it opened
last month.

Even without the overdose prevention site, the facility, which houses
147 residents and opened in late summer, has generated much concern
from neighbours, but Bond said much of those concerns and the impact
residents are having on the neighbourhood have been addressed.

That's largely because all of its support staff are now in place,
consisting of four mental health care workers there 24-7, two home
support workers there five days a week, a full time nurse and a
physician who comes twice a week.

"I think it's (problems) are continuing on a downward trend. We are
really just getting engaged with more and more of the residents," said
Bond, noting about 10 residents have been connected with family to
move into more appropriate housing with less supports, and a couple
more have gone into treatment, but the facility is still at capacity.

"There's certainly no shortage of homeless people waiting for

The 24-hour security patrol, which is part of a joint security
arrangement with PHS, is the latest amongst a handful of security
measures recently added on Pandora Avenue and Johnson Street, which
has become a patrol priority for Victoria police, targeting loitering
and drug dealing.

Last month, the Central Baptist Church installed a "decorative fence"
along the front of its property to reduce crime pertaining to drugs
and make it a safer space. A tall metal barrier has also been
installed around the 844 Johnson Street building at the recommendation
of Victoria police.

McKenzie noted the security guards aren't just there for security, but
they can also respond to incidents such as overdoses or
medical-related issues in the area.

"I think that's quite important because if they see someone in a
doorway or stairwell they can check in and make sure they're okay,"
said McKenzie. "I like the idea of these guys being able to check on
people. It's quite easy for someone to fall through the cracks."
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