Pubdate: Tue, 02 May 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Dean Fortin
Page: A15


Let us try to understand the experiences of community workers, first

'Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle," wrote the
19th-century writer Rev. John Watson.

Recently, Pacifica Housing hosted a staff meeting to address the
challenges we are seeing in our housing and our outreach programs
because of the fentanyl crisis - both as an agency and a community. We
are not unique in feeling the impact.

The fentanyl crisis that has hit our community is horrific,
challenging and, as far as we can all tell, here to stay. In 2016, 914
people died from drug-induced overdoses in B.C., making it the
deadliest overdose year on record and representing an increase of
nearly 80 per cent from the year before.

In the past two years, fentanyl has significantly changed the
landscape of risk that our tenants face when trying to meet their
needs and has taken unprecedented numbers of their friends and family
members struggling with addiction.

While the previous profile of an overdose victim in B.C. was a
middle-aged man on the Downtown Eastside, the opioid crisis has not
discriminated by age or location, and in fact only nine per cent of
overdose deaths are people who are homeless - the rest are housed.

Traditionally, Pacifica Housing loses about one or two tenants per
year. In the past six months, we had more than 14 people die from an
overdose, and many more were pulled back from the brink.

At Pacifica, we felt it was important that we communicate to all our
staff, and to all others who work in support services and emergency
services, that we have tremendous respect for the work they do and the
challenges that arise from this crisis.

Fentanyl has not only changed how we at Pacifica Housing deliver
service. It affects every agency.

All downtown service workers and housing workers are deserving of
respect and understanding. This respect is extended to our community's
first responders, such as paramedics, police officers and

Working with marginalized people and being exposed to so much human
suffering changes you as a person.

Yet, day in and day out, team members show up and offer the people we
serve the very best versions of themselves. They bring our folks space
for safety, connection and dignity.

They see them for who they are and offer them the understanding of the
tragedies, traumas and terrible events that have brought them to their
current life circumstances.

Often, people who come to this line of work are brought there because
of their capacity for empathy and compassion. In a field where there
is a limitless well of need, burnout is real. Let us have
understanding of what the survivors, the community support workers and
the responders are experiencing.

We feel it is important to share this challenge with you, one that we
all are facing. We strongly believe that open communication will help
us to navigate this crisis together in the hope of finding a solution.

This begins with understanding that all people have internal
struggles, that all are impacted by this crisis. Let us be kind to all

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Dean Fortin is the executive director of Pacifica Housing.
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