Category Archives: DTES

local map

safer using spaces in the downtown eastside

further additions welcome – this is a work in progress

abundant harm, vancouver

It’s important to understand why emergency measures are still what are needed in terms of the overdose crisis, if the fact that four people each day are dying unnecessarily in this province, and that that number will continue to climb slowly, inexorably, up. To do so, it’s helpful to take a step back and take a look from a wider perspective. Sometimes, you need to hear about something that you know close-up and very well from someone looking from far away, with different experiences. This is Johann Hari speaking in fall 2018 about harm reduction and the Downtown Eastside.

we are still doing #harmReduction but

>>>>>>we must expand our concept of HARM
[because clearly we did not]
[because everything became much more harmful very quickly

fatal, in fact

HARM is actually dynamic, a shapeshifter.

this is about inequality of possibility. the distance between us – in for example, the Woodwards building, emblematic of everything ever in this tiny world – on this stolen land on which we have built this city.

between the resident of the condo building and us in supportive housing – is a distance that capitalism measures in dollars, and therefore in value. it is an unfathomable distance, a gap that that can only be crossed by a miracle like celebrity, winning lottery, sports stardom

or the production and sale of synthetic narcotics.

And fentanyl is only the first.

and every day we are all a little poorer and more desperate, more harmed and capable of harm. and people have been so poor for so long.

this is Hugh Lampkin from the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users explaining the economics of fentanyl to you:

Frontline Fentanyl” is the best documentation of the 2016-17 phase of the overdose crisis.

people get desperate. plus they see this unreasonable wealth all around, and no other ways to live! they would never raise welfare. things would never change. it’s very profitable, as Hugh makes clear.

everyone is poor and just needs one break. you don’t need to be a genius to make money with this, but it’s not an income if you err by a micrograin and all your customers die. it’s as complicated and difficult to make money in an illicit market as it is to be a pharmacist. not many people are good at both, it turns out.

this is how it is down here

Downtown Eastside

and so hundreds are dead here.

this is the world that we all have created. All of Us.

it’s not about blame! but it is not a moral response to shut the cage and say “i’m sure you all know best.”

you need to read this again, by Travis Lupick, published december 10, 2016

FIVE years – TWO years, at this point this is all we know, endless crisis

so thanks everyone for stopping bothering to ask when will we find a bit of time to relax, and sort out our lives. We Need Some Damn Help. NOW because there’s no time left. We have to make a decision, you too, that we have to End this Emergency.

i mean, of course we want to live. ffs, that we have to say so, after everyone’s friends are dead.

it’s like “being in a war that no one else sees.” we should listen to this speech by Vito Russo, at the height of the AIDs crisis.

like being trapped in a war that is only real for the people who happen to be in the trenches. there’s an explosion and you see you’ve lost more of your friends. but nobody else notices.

and they DON’T GIVE A SHIT .

What’s happened is a moral outrage. So let’s not let it continue. because in the future (SHOULD SUCH a THING OCCUR), they will wonder how all this could have happened in such a beautiful, rich, decent place

i see you all trying to make this about “those” people who “aren’t from Here” but come on, there’s such fear in your nonsense: these are your children, and this is You, and ffs! this is your money! i thought you cared about that!

as Harm changes, we have to change how we respond. HARM isn’t a monument frozen in time since 2003! Insite is Very Important. But that Right Turn back around the turn of the millennium was much more harmful than even we realized then, and to people in this place in particular. it was a long fight, and we won, and that matters. but afterwards it’s as if it was frozen in time: like a Museum of Acceptable Practices on the 100-block. War is over if you want it, right? and nothing changed inside, it was widely believed , as if there had been an MOU signed with the external world that everything out there would stay the same too.

There was no MOU. Donald MacPherson of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition would say that the Iron Law of Prohibition holds: that prohibited substances become increasingly potent and dangerous over time, because of prohibition.

because of poverty > and the role of the #DTES in cda, >>> the Harm changed dramatically, and users sounded the alarm, and were ignored.

this whole misery-management industry is costing everyone a lot and also, it’s appallingly corrupt and just disgusting. and we’re trapped in it. like RATS in a Cage, not a Park. 20 years ago, they wanted to build Rat Park.

but this – these conditions – has become a terrible cage.

we ARE trying.

this is the fentanyl of place

we are trying to use capital to relieve pain

(it’s not going to work. well, it will, for a while.
but it’ll f@ck you up)

with Safe Supply we can remove the profit motive from the drug market….if we can do it there – we can do it anywhere– no bunk

we can End the War on Drugs, and on ourselves, but we have to be serious about ending this Emergency, because that must be the goal for us here.

but we can do this on the 100-Block, and we must do it now.

tasked

In the next few days – no earlier than wed. dec 12, and no later than friday (i guess), a report and some recommendations will be released from the city for council to consider the following week. it is the result of the meetings held in the last few weeks. it’s been a scramble and that was the easy part. 

the Community Action Team meeting last week would have been to venue for people to ask (as there were many city employees present) who was on the mayor’s advisory panel, or what my role was (as obviously i am not representing an organization or a member of one), since apparently what i do is a distracting concern for some.

during the meeting itself, i was accused by a VANDU member of not doing enough to address drug user labour issues, which is the closest i’ve ever been to punching someone in the face at a city meeting. This is a good indication, though, of the level of general dysfunction as well as the specific tone of the anti-me (in particular) resentment, well over a year after my resignation from the place. 

so now we’ve come to a place where at a meeting of mostly drug users, convened by the mayor of vancouver, we have one person accussing another drug user of not doing enough for drug users, and some people parroting a bunch of nonsense condemning the meeting for even happening and making no difference, while it is happening, and they are in the room.

i don’t know, for example, if anyone took a moment afterward and thought “wait, does the mayor of this city or any other call a meeting of drug users in their first month in office, to consult with them on social policy as it relates to overdose? is that the usual thing?” 

it’s really not. 

perhaps you’ve heard about anti-drug user stigma. the mayor could easily NOT have convened a meeting. or had an emergency task force at all. it would have been easier to just do a bunch of random things, and not associate himself publicly with drug users (as sensibly cautious politicians do).

i don’t find sensibly cautious politicians very interesting or fun to hang out with or helpful in terms of our overall policy goals (particularly the “drug users not dying like this” goal). and it will take a lot of support and help for him, as an independent, to get something bold passed by this council next week.

“it’s the same old people on the advisory,” i heard someone say. again, really, no. there are drug users on it. i am on it, and so i am busy, advising. i don’t represent an organization or agency and i don’t work for anyone (including “the City”). it is not the same old people, and i wouldn’t be on an advisory if i thought that nobody was listening.

actually, what i’d like is for drug user organizations to notice that there is a drug user on the advisory, and when doing so, support my (unpaid) efforts, rather than call for me to be removed. maybe even those organizations could suggest that i should be employed to oversee the implementation of the plans that i have been working on, and paid to do so, like people are. at the very least, if they are interested in their members at all, the leadership of these organizations could facilitate access to accurate information. 

i remember going on about how not listening had everything to do with why all this happened, that there are consequences to silence (in this case, silencing drug users’ warnings about the potential mass casualty event fentanyl could cause), way back in May when, as Kennedy pointed out, we started discussing ideas for ending this at the Ovaltine. 

Both Sides Now: Reclaiming Treatment

apparently this was published in 2011 in The Network, the newsletter of the West Coast Mental Health Network. who knew. 

Name-Calling

After the dust clears from your first encounter with the apparatus of psychiatry, you’re diagnosed. “Dia” as in (“diameter” or “dialogue”) means “across.” “Gnosis” means “knowledge”. So the psychiatrist is naming you according to his knowledge of you, acquired during a meeting of perhaps five minutes, which likely occurred while you were in a bad way and completely unable to resist such naming.

The big book containing all the names is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), and has been through four editions so far. New, exciting names are expected in the upcoming version. And, by the by, once you are named, it sticks. You’re “bipolar” or “schizophrenic” – and keep in mind that you may get the wrong name; misdiagnosis is common. 

Disorder This

When you’re loaded up with psychoactive pills that knock the energy right out of you, you have lots of time to think. “Treatment” mainly means pills and visits (assuming you’re lucky enough not to be subjected to electroshock). In many ways, both constitute an invasion of the privacy of your own mind. You end up in a struggle for self-preservation, resisting the silence that pervades the world of mental illness, still stigmatized and relegated to the margins.

Then too, psychiatric treatment is generally uniform, taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Regardless of your uniqueness – your glorious difference – you’re reduced to a peg hammered into some pill-shaped hole; which of course does not leave you whole. The integrity and complexity of your personhood – the most important aspects of what makes you, you – is part of what ends up being subsumed under the label of “illness.” But illness/ disorder doesn’t define who you are, and no pill can do that either.

Resistance is Useful

I’m not suggesting that pills are all bad: I take mine, and they help alleviate the debilitating symptoms of serious mental illness. But we must always be careful – they are overprescribed, and their long-term effects (despite the claims of safety and efficiency promulgated by the pharmaceutical industry) are unknown. All of us who receive psychiatric treatment are experimental subjects – or rather, objects. And part of our struggle is to become subjective persons again. There are many ways in which this can be accomplished, including joining with others who have had similar experiences to share knowledge and ideas, and initiate action.

An army of lovers cannot fail, and treatment can be redefined as the way in which we work with each other.


postscript 2018

i was taking my meds at the time, apparently. this was also a time of very disordered and chaotic illicit drug use for me. everything exploded, soon enough, and i wound up in the hospital, “on leave” from gachet, and because drugs, respectable types in the art/mental illness space deleted me from relevant existence. i tried to fight my way back…

i don’t like that last sentence.

An army of lovers cannot fail, it’s said. But this war makes everything a battle. The treatment we get every day can really only be changed by the ways in which we choose to treat each other.