Category Archives: DTES

worked up

bravery [2017]

by request, my resignation from VANDU – august 24 2017

As a board member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, I have a clear responsibility to the members — as a peer organization, given our history and goals, this responsibility is serious, and beautiful.

I mean it when I say that serving at VANDU is the most challenging and meaningful work I have ever done. That is how much it matters. That is how real it is. And members, people, I want you to know how strong you are. And your generosity. I know you’ve told me things you’ve never said to anyone, and your bravery means something and I get it.. I meant it when I said that I wanted to know what you think. I meant it when I said that all of us down here live lives that are realer and more honest and smarter than the people who look down on all of us. The people taking over our neighbourhood. The ones we fight.

I walk up the street, every day, I get the engine revved. I am set for the fight. I love it, I’m good at it. I will fight for all of us every day. All night, any time. Let’s all go fight.

But that is it. Look at the fighting. Look at how the workers are treated, look at how people treat each other. If this was happening at another organization, we’d be outside protesting it.

Today, I am resigning from the board of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users. I do not want to hurt the membership – I am resigning to empower the membership; that is my responsibility.

I will not participate in a so-called leadership structure that enables, enforces, and rewards the ongoing and systemic exploitation of human suffering and experience. The raw needs of poverty and addiction makes bullying not only a standard practice, but an actual enforced and rewarded behaviour.

This is deeply, deeply sick.

Everyone, it’s not ok. It’s not ok that we talk about justice and liberation and then learn and see and become forced to believe that the way to express strength is through causing harm. And by making that act of harm a mark of authority, and strength, we become the thing we pretend to fight.

I reject that, and I am confident in that rejection. Months ago, I said that only acts of bravery could end the cycles of death that we are experiencing.

I see such bravery everywhere.

At VANDU, the cowards are in charge on every level. I urge the members to reject that. I urge the workers to strike. Be brave — because you are. It does not have to be this way.

Do no harm. Gentleness is not weakness. Arrogance is not strength. Justice is love.

We must take care of each other, because no one else will.

Above, I said “we become the thing we pretend to fight.”

I am concerned with the actual fight. And what you need to know is that I can’t do that at VANDU.

I’m not a coward.

I have things to do.

Stay safe, be brave. Let’s go.

about what’s happening

on the july coroners update
on overdose deaths in BC.

i want to give people some information about this update from the provincial coroner on tuesday. it’s your information, actually, and sometimes facts are hard to come by. i’ll do separate posts because nobody likes one that goes on forever.

first here’s a few things the coroner said.

“The number of people dying in B.C. due to an unsafe drug supply continues to surpass deaths due to homicides, motor vehicle incidents, suicides and COVID-19 combined,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.

175.

or 5.6 deaths every day. average.

july was the third month in a row when there were 170+ Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths -> using “illicit” to mean that they *socially* not permitted, so people use alone – and not just illegal. different. and toxicity -> poisoned, not overdose. because you use what you use but there’s not way of knowing this.

this is from the coroner’s service statement:

“Once again, post-mortem toxicology testing data published in this report suggest an increase in the number of cases with extreme fentanyl concentrations (exceeding 50 micrograms per litre) in April, May, June and July 2020 compared with previous months.”

how concentrated is that? compare smooth peanut butter vs crunchy. but you can’t see the crunchy bits.

those tiny numbers at the bottom of this are number of deaths per 100,000 – a measurement to compare. right now what matters is that we’re at 30.5/100,000. in 2018, we were 31. remember 2018?


Housing

the next thing the update looks at is the location of death. this is one thing where the vancouver region is really different from other parts of the province.

the red slice in the two pie charts is for supportive/social/SRO housing.

Private Residence – includes driveways garages, trailer homes and either decedent’s own or another’s residence.
Other Residence – includes hotels, motels, rooming houses, SRO (single room occupancy, shelters, social/supportive housing etc.)
Medical facility – includes hospitals, community care facilities, etc
Occupational site – includes locations where the decedent was at their place of work.
Public buildings – includes restaurants, community centres, businesses, clinics, etc.
Outside – includes vehcles, streets, sidewalks, parking lots, public parks, wooded areas, and campgrounds

so, there were DOUBLE the % of overdose deaths in supportive, social, SRO, and hotels, shelters etc in the VCH region than province-wide! Doesn’t that seem like something that could be directly addressed? Instead, operators lie to the public and to funders about “community” and “looking out for one another” and meanwhile abuse their staff who in turn abuse the residents. demolition by neglect.

And “meeting people where they’re at” or even “wrap-around supports” is obviously not identical single-resident units. when homeless people refuse to live in such housing, it is clearly a signal that the housing is not adequate.

if you are living in an encampment and managing ok, and use drugs, and prefer living to being dead, it’s the rational choice.

but obviously these are shitty choices.

just to make the shittiness clear, here’s the two articles from late last year about how no one even bothers to keep track of how many people die in vancouver’s supportive housing, numbers are going up, an its super fucked up.

No one is monitoring Deaths in Supportive Housing – Travis Lupick, Georgia Straight, Dec 2019

“If it were daycares or hospitals or prisons, and if there were one or two or three deaths, we would have reached a stage that triggered an investigation,” Gagnon argued. “People are dying in these spaces, no one is doing anything about it. No one is even looking into it.”

Deaths Rise Amid Conflicting Rules – Travis Lupick, Georgia Straight

continuing on the housing problem (no one wanting to live in the housing/ everyone being dead)

as i’m finding, there isnt A Solution to this: there are many, and “the solution” is always for People to Have Real Choices, which is very simple and outrageously revolutionary at the same time. you should see the looks i get – i might change my name to WTF.

(also whenever someone who has any power at all says “this is how it is down here” – tells you to accept the unacceptable and get used to it – they are not On Your Side, and now you must fight even harder, often alone, because its real.)

on average, 20% – 40% of regular drug users prefer to / will only use alone: it’s their thing. should they be prioritized for safer supply access?low-income/supportive housing needs to have harm reduction built right into it – not be the same as ever, now! with naloxone.

harm remains a feature of operation: how power is deployed when someone has even a tiny bit.such housing must have using rooms, units for couples, units for street families, drug checking and ☑️ dealers.

housing that acknowledges that drug users exist, in design and policy.formal accountability structures and a complaint process THAT IS DOCUMENTED, and collaborative management between operators and residents. resident committees. yeah low-income co-ops and resident self-management

did you know that not everything needs to become a total clusterdumpsterfire before you can try to fix it? or do something else?

we must dump this idea that 100% shelter rate is only housing worth working for. i would very much prefer to live in the world. what do you think? people out there have often never met people like any of us. i have found that if you give them a chance, most of the time everyone is surprised. and frankly we’re not going to change things any other way.

its like we’ve been behind a wall for 20 years.


Poverty Cycling

the next part of the coroner’s report is on the day/week when the most overdose events occur. let’s talk about what to do about cheque week.this chart is of deaths per day for the province – cheque day is the same day everywhere, but the supply is local. or in transit, from one market to others. as you can see, cheque day seems to be starting to look like other days by the end of 2019 – or was it?

it definitely was not.

the peaks in the lines are cheque week. this chart is of 911 calls for ODs.in 2019, deaths were down by 1/3. calls for serious overdoses were almost exactly the same. as ive said before, it was the changing supply – the benzos. people were very messed up and some will never be ok, but they didnt die.

in the last three months, calls have increased dramatically.

from the gov’t release:

“Paramedics are responding to and reviving overdose patients about 80 times a day, every single day in B.C.,” said Jon Deakin, paramedic practice leader with BCEHS. “It’s a lot. It’s the highest number of daily overdoses BCEHS has ever seen.”

This graph is from the BCCDC – the blue line at the top represents 911 calls throughout the province and the five line nearer the bottom represent the five health regions.

Oh here’s a chart of the % of benzo content in the local down, week by week, since january.

here are those two charts on top of each other. the blue Xs are cheque week.

we can’t have cheque day, or cheque week like this anymore. we don’t have time for another study to find out if people who use drugs prefer being alive. also, fuck the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use and their useless exploitative ‘research’.

we can’t allow the government to continue dumping all the legit money on all the poor people in the province on the same day. when you think about it that way, it’s ridiculous.

so here’s my idea: what if you could decide yourself when and how you’d get your assistance on the regular? work it out, depending on what you want to be doing. twice a month, every week, twice a week, thirty bucks a day, whatever. keep cheque day if you’re lazy. yes, you must get a bank account. do you like getting ripped off? yes, we need our own bank, if pigeon bank isnt working out for you.

the point is for you to make choices for yourself – which is all i hear from people everyday, that’s all they want.

this is the only way that i can imagine that would break this fucked up cycle for real. what do people think?

This Is How

oh yeah the hearing for the sahota pot shop when we were locked out and we sat outside on the lawn and ate raspberries from the garden and it was the first time i’d sat outside that year.

IT WAS LOANED TO US FOR THE AFTERNOON AND IT HAD A STRIPPER POLE

and when the hearing was supposed to start the doors were still locked so i said this on the steps and then we sat on the lawn for three hours and then went back on the party bus and donnie worked the laser lights and he smiled and i said no photos because how could a photo get close to this feeling and then the sahotas were denied

(july 12 2017)

And they will argue, and I’m sure argue well, that the only legal way that you can rule against them is on the issue of proximity to a school as there is nothing else in the application that in any way contravenes any city regulation.

They will tell you, in this way, that you cannot get them.

They will tell you that you don’t know what is going on. That you don’t know that is application is a shameless fuck you to all and every possible moral obligation a government has, even in this belittled and degraded form and moment.

I do note that it does not contravene the regulations that the dimly obscured owners of this proposed establishment have ignored city by-laws and codes for years, to the extent that life was endangered, people were victimized, robbed, bullied, exploited, humiliated, and they died. The owners got rich. Then you said that now the building was unsafe and everyone had to go.

The living conditions were disgusting, you said. 

You said you’d be  “looking at every possible legal and regulatory tool we have available to force the Sahota family to improve the Balmoral and hold them accountable for ignoring City by-laws”

This is how you do that. 

It doesn’t say in the ordinance that the establishment cannot be a franchise of a cobbled-together business empire that is based on the exploitation of the people most damaged by so much of the violence in our society, and whatever way you can think of to steal from the poor.

Maybe you should include that in future regulations. Then you would have to state clearly that you would have been thinking of justice when decisions are made around the licensing, or making legitimate, of some sort of enterprise or establishment within the city. 

I guess if you did not approve this application they would be delighted to take the city to court. 

That’s how you hold them accountable for their brazen disregard for human rights. And human decency. And human life. And all the by-laws and rules and ordinances and crap that you have and that they have mocked and ignored for years, those weak tools that you won’t improve or enforce, until the building falls down and now it’s an emergency! 

You go to court, and expose their crimes and sue them for everything, and take their properties and use the money to fix them and make them decent.

Those are legal and regulatory tools. Take a risk on behalf of the people you represent. Actually fight for us.

That is how you can do that.

That’s what this could be like.