TC: Drug use, camping spiralling out of control on Pandora, businesses and residents say

June 13, 2010 at 1:03 am 2 comments

Article in Saturday’s Times Colonist about the problems on Pandora Avenue. People ask me what should be done (or what I would do).

“It’s like a cancer that grows. We are at that tipping point right now,” says Rob Randall, chairman of the Downtown Residents Association.

Victoria police Insp. Jamie Pearce, who heads the city’s focused enforcement team, says the 900-block of Pandora — bordered by Quadra Street and Vancouver Street — accounts for more of his officers’ time than any other area of the city.

He says drug arrests are made daily and people are regularly ticketed for things like public urination, but as far as camping on the grassy stretch in front of Our Place is concerned, their hands are tied.

“They’re allowed to be there,” says Pearce. “The appeal court has actually said that camping in parks is legal and they are allowed to do so and that is designated as a park area.”

Many of the problems on the street involve 20 to 25 individuals, a number of whom have been banned from Our Place yet continue to hang around in the area because it’s a focal point for street people. They’re well known to police and regularly cycle through the justice system, landing back on the street.

“It’s a very complex social issue,” Pearce says. “We’re talking mental health, addictions and homelessness issues that we’re dealing with at the crux of the issue. You’re not seeing this in any other part of town. Unfortunately, it’s now centralized.”

Randall is sympathetic to the police and agrees that in many respects they are caught between a rock and a hard place, but warns the 900-block of Pandora is dangerously close to being lost.

“I think there is a push to ghettoize it and make that the dumping ground for all the city’s social problems,” Randall says, adding a VIHA proposal to put a fixed needle exchange in the block, which was subsequently quashed, “would have been the last straw in writing off that whole neighbourhood.”

“The people who think that was merely NIMBY concerns are simply not understanding the issue and the dynamics of how a neighbourhood changes,” he says.

As it is, the combination of Our Place, the provincial Ministry of Housing and Social Development — which delivers income assistance — and a pharmacy dispensing methadone within the same block has the neighbourhood teetering on the brink of “total oblivion,” Randall says.


Read more
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The most evil part of all this is that the more the City does to fix homelessness, the more the other levels of government offload their responsibilities.

In addition to more treatment and housing, we need a community court system so that criminal activity can be dealt with–instead of ignoring it. It will work here.

Entry filed under: City Hall, Harris Green, media, needle exhange, Our Place, safe injection sites, social issues, Victoria's economy. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Yule Heibel  |  June 13, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Good article and remarks by you, Rob. Interesting that it’s mainly 20 to 25 individuals who cause most of the problems. In light of that, your recommendation for a community court system makes the most sense.

    I read through some of the posted comments on the T-C article. One, by a visiting Vancouver couple, ended with, “Having witnessed your situation for several days last year, all I can say is, good luck, you poor bastards.” Ouch.

    Reply
  • 2. robertrandall  |  June 14, 2010 at 10:28 am

    It was a similar small proportion causing problems on Cormorant Street, too. We can’t allow a relatively small number to hold us hostage. Remember, drug users also complained about the old needle exchange crowd, saying they avoided the Cormorant Street area because of the chaos.

    Reply

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