Posts filed under ‘needle exhange’

CBC’s “As It Happens” on boulevard camping

CBC’s national current affairs show As It Happens talks with me about Victoria’s proposed prohibition on boulevard camping.

As I Happens Part II: Windows Media File

Segment begins at 7:50.

Or listen to the podcast:

September 2, 2010 at 11:29 pm Leave a comment

Globe: Victoria’s ‘tent city’ on verge of becoming public health hazard

Lack of hygienic facilities, group of injection-drug users pose potential risk, says B.C.’s chief medical health officer

Brennan Clarke

Victoria — From Saturday’s Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Aug. 27, 2010 8:46PM EDT

Two years ago, a landmark court ruling gave homeless people the right to pitch their tents in Victoria city parks. Now the province’s chief medical health officer says a bustling “tent city” made possible by that decision is on the verge of becoming a public health hazard.

“Any time you have a number of people camped together without hygienic facilities for a period of time there’s a potential for a health risk to those individuals,” Dr. Perry Kendall said.

Robert Randall, chairman of the Victoria Downtown Residents Association, said most nights this summer anywhere from 30 to 60 people have set up tents, tarps and makeshift shelters on the site, including a core group who have either refused shelter or been banned from Our Place.

The result has been an increase in violent crime, drug use, prostitution, used needles and discarded condoms.

“It’s become a drug-buying destination for the region, there are old blankets and sleeping bags and refuse everywhere and people are increasingly using the area as a toilet,” Mr. Randall said.

Similar problems occurred outside the former AIDS Vancouver Island needle exchange on Cormorant Street, less than three blocks from Our Place, Mr. Randall said.

The City is supposed to announce some sort of new initiative soon.

One thing no-one ever mentions is the welfare of the Our Place residents. Don’t they deserve a home where the front door is free from drug pushers? Do the most vulnerable members of our society have to push their way through a gauntlet of drugs just to get home?

August 28, 2010 at 12:04 am 2 comments

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

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

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.

June 13, 2010 at 1:03 am 2 comments

St. Andrew’s Elementary to close

By Robert Randall

A version of this article originally appeared on Vibrant Victoria.

St. Andrew’s Elementary School, at Pandora Avenue and Vancouver Street, will close. Photo © by St. Andrew’s Elementary School.

St. Andrew’s Elementary, a fixture in Victoria’s North Park neighbourhood for decades, will shut its doors and amalgamate with St. Joseph’s school on Burnside Road according to a statement by the Bishop of the Diocese of Victoria, Richard Gagnon.

The announcement, part of a briefing outlining a new strategic plan for Victoria Catholic schools, comes three years after the closure of another urban Christian school, the Greater Victoria Christian Academy. The GVCA had classrooms in The Church of Our Lord in the Humboldt Valley and Central Baptist Church on Pandora Avenue until 2007. The school faced declining enrollment linked to parental concerns about social problems surrounding the needle exchange on Cormorant Street, a block north of Central Baptist.

St. Andrew’s principal Keefer Pollard denies the move is precipitated by the street community that gravitates toward the 900 block of Pandora and Harris Green, saying the school’s mandate is to respond to the needy. St. Andrews participates in the Pandora Green Good Neighbour Association and is an active participant in improving conditions in Harris Green and North Park.

Pollard cites declining enrollment as one factor in the decision to close the school, saying both St. Andrew’s and St. Patrick’s (located in Victoria’s Jubilee neighbourhood) have too many empty seats and are unable to balance their budgets. Saanich’s St. Joseph’s, on the other hand, is at capacity with 200 seats. A planned expansion in five years will double the current number of students at St. Joseph’s.

St. Andrew’s, rated highly in the C.D. Howe Institute’s rankings of local schools is located at 1002 Pandora Avenue, in a 1931 heritage building. The building is not seismically upgraded to current standards, a point of great concern to Pollard and one he feels will be rectified by a move to a new state-of-the-art facility.

Left unanswered is the question of what happens to the school building when it is vacated in five years. Owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese, the property encompasses the main school building, an annex containing a gymnasium, a playground and playing fields. The Diocese will begin a series of consultations with parents, teachers, the Catholic community and other stakeholders over the next several years before coming to a decision on the fate of the property.

The school made headlines in 2008 when it spearheaded a protest against the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s bid to relocate the Cormorant Street needle exchange to the former St. John’s Ambulance building at 941 Pandora, a short distance from school grounds. The neighourhood, already reeling from an increase in social disorder exacerbated by a high concentration of social services in the area, was chosen as the new location for the exchange in a surprise move that caught parents, residents and business owners off guard. Many felt the addition of a needle exchange so soon after the Cormorant Street debacle would be the tipping point that would lead to an irrevocable change for the worse.

Copyright © 2010 by

April 10, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Vic News: Needle Exchange location eyed

Victoria News
Needle exchange location eyed

By Roszan Holmen – Victoria News

Published: July 31, 2009 4:00 PM
Updated: July 31, 2009 4:12 PM

A building in the Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood has been singled out as the frontrunner for a new fixed needle-exchange site.

An agreement looks promising for the new pilot project, said Robert Randall, a member of the needle exchange advisory committee.

It’s been 14 months since the needle exchange on Cormorant Street closed. Ever since, the Vancouver Island Health Authority has been on the lookout for a replacement building.

Resistance from landlords has been a major reason why alternative sites fell through, Randall said. The landlord in the Burnside-Gorge building, however, likes the idea. “He supports the idea of harm reduction … To find a landlord OK with this is pretty amazing,” Randall said.

VIHA confirmed that one landowner has come forward with a proposal to house the facility.

“It’s our hope that this will be a viable location,” spokesperson Shannon Marshall said.

But work still needs to be done, she said.

First, the advisory committee needs to make a recommendation. Next, the broader community will be consulted.

Randall confirmed the potential site is in an industrial area.

Ideally, he said, the new location would be downtown, but that’s not realistic given budget cuts at VIHA and high lease rates in the core.

Find this article at:

August 4, 2009 at 1:48 pm 1 comment

Needle Exchange Update

VIHA has identified a potential new location for a fixed needle distribution site. It’s in the Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood just north of the Downtown border on Princess Street.

Members of the DRA have been part of VIHA’s Needle Exchange Advisory committee and its spin-off, the Site Selection Subcommittee. We find that this site–while far from perfect–meets many of the requirements a successful needle exchange needs.

The Times Colonist reports on it here, although it weighs heavily on the opinions expressed by members of SOLID (Society of Living Intravenous Drug users). It should be noted that the spokesperson for SOLID may not necessarily reflect the views of the SOLID Board or membership, let alone the opinions of Victoria’s drug users.

In a July 23 letter to the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s Needle Exchange Advisory Committee, a group calling itself SOLID — Society for Living Intravenous Drug Users — said a proposed site on Princess Street was inappropriate. No address was given.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Times Colonist, said the area is known to drug users as “extremely dangerous and violent due to street gang activity,” and any attempt at extra policing would only scare away needle-exchange clients.

The area is a few steps away from Government Street’s prostitute stroll. I’m not aware of any other extraordinary “gang” activity here and I’m certain the Vic PD would agree.

SOLID, listed as a member of the Needle Exchange Advisory Committee, also said that the site was too far from downtown services, buildings were badly maintained and unsuitable for a health service and current tenants would have to be displaced.

The site is relatively close to needed services. The compactness of Downtown Victoria gives the illusion of being far. Superimpose Victoria’s services onto a map of Vancouver or any other large city and the distances appear much closer.

The houses need minimal upgrades to meet requirements according to VIHA–not much more than was done at their comparable Nanaimo exchange.

It’s true that current tenants will be displaced but the landlord assures us accomodation will be made at his other properties. Still, there would be a net loss of low-income housing.

The letter argues 941 Pandora Ave., the site of the old St. John’s Ambulance Society, is still the best site for a needle exchange.

But the exchange, and the accompanying drug trade, would destabilize the 900 block Pandora which is already at critical mass for chaos. The residents (including Our Place) deserve a home free from public disorder.

August 2, 2009 at 11:43 pm 1 comment

Globe discussion on SALOME project

Globe & Mail follow-up to yesterday`s story on giving heroin to addicts.

June 2, 2009 at 10:12 pm 1 comment

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