Yesterday on my way to a meeting in Vancouver I headed down Hastings Street for a change. Hastings and Main is in the downtown eastside and is considered a ‘bad’ area of town. There the poverty is apparent with the unemployed, homeless and addiction in plain view. As I was passing Insite I Twittered and took a picture. No one responded which seemed unusual. After some thought that was probably because most don’t know about Insite.
Insite is the first legal supervised injection site. It is the only geographic area (the building’s large injection room) in Canada where it is legal to inject drugs. The reasons for this are many, the main one being that addiction is a sickness and this is a health issue with a health facility to attempt to assist people in beating their drug addiction. What it has done is save lives, lives of those who have this illness. Sure there are two sides to this story and some that would take a very different view but the fact remains, lives have been saved.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to tour the site when with the Watari organization. It was a life changing event. Hearing the stories of the individuals and seeing what was happening brought to light that we as a community need to come to grips with the drug addiction problems of the poor and homeless. There are some that say this is the addicts choice. Other will call it bad fate. Whatever the reason it doesn’t make sense to neglect the problem and do nothing and let people die. It makes me wonder when I hear about a 31 year old aquarium dolphin that dies in the arms of its 5 handlers and nothing about the individual who dies in the back alley of a downtown street, alone with no human consolation.