Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, a more pervasive health crisis resulting from addictions, mental illness, infections disease and homelessness continues to take a heavy toll on marginalized populations in the Downtown Eastside (DTES).
In a recent Op-Ed in the Vancouver Sun, Dr. Bill MacEwan, Clinical Professor in the UBC Department of Psychiatry, along with Building Community Society (BCS) and Mr. Paul Sullivan, provide a stark reminder that this urgent health crisis in the DTES persists despite valiant efforts by individual organizations and agencies. The authors emphasize that, rather, a coordinated effort focused on housing and meaningful treatment is needed to address this health crisis in an impactful way. They outline two key steps needed to achieve a plan that focuses on the right to health and home, which are: Establishing a single entity that will coordinate all social housing policy implementation, and establishing means to develop trust within our communities.
The authors add, “To ensure effective and lasting change, a multi-government strike force is needed with the power to investigate the elements that allow this ongoing crisis to continue and to make the necessary legal, policy and service provision changes that will lead to real change. The City of Vancouver, which has so much stake in a successful outcome, can take the first step. We realize that the city can only do so much, but the one important tool the city has is in land use and zoning. If Vancouver is willing to step up to offer land to the provincial and federal governments, actually earmarked for treatment, we believe the other levels of government will be more likely to come to the table.”
Read the entire Vancouver Sun Op-Ed piece here.