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‘Decampment isn’t a solution to anything’: Report looks at toll of eviction on people who use drugs

Vancouver -

A new report is providing insight into the impact people who use drugs face after an eviction.

The report titled, “It's no foundation, there's no stabilization, you're just scattered”: A qualitative study of the institutional circuit of recently-evicted people who use drugs,” surveyed dozens of people on the Downtown Eastside.

It found that evictions led to an institutional circuit of homelessness.

Study author Ryan McNeil, an associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine, told CTV News the research is timely, given the City of Vancouver’s decision to remove tents in the neighborhood.

“People are either going to cycle constantly to new camping locations trying to eke out survival as they’re perpetually and constantly displaced,” he said. “They're going to temporarily stay with friends, placing them at increased risk of eviction and creating a further cycle that only worsens the whole of the situation. Decampment isn’t a solution to anything.”

Karen Ward, a drug policy advisor said since the decampment began on April 5, residents have been displaced and some are facing numerous barriers — including accessing drugs.

“If they use drugs, they have someone that they go to — their supplier and then they get something similar all the time or at least regularly,” she said. “They have to break up that connection if they don’t find them and they’re at very high risk of an overdose. Very high-risk, because they don’t know what their dose is.”

The province and Mayor Ken Sim have defended their actions, saying the neighborhood has become unsafe due to violence and fires. On Friday, the city issued a news release saying crews removed 94 structures and that over 71 personal storage totes were provided to people.

“It’s unconscionable”

McNeil said the research shows that what the city is doing will only lead to increased suffering and death.

“It’s unconscionable that anybody would push forward with that as a strategy,” he said. “We’re constantly hearing this idea that this has to be done for the purposes of public safety, but I think we need to ask, whose safety are we talking about? Because it certainly isn’t the safety of people who are being displaced by police and by city crews right now.”

When asked to comment on the report, the Ministry of Housing provided a statement to CTV News, saying, “without an in-depth analysis of the academic report it’s difficult to provide comment, but it certainly affirms our understanding that homelessness has tremendous negative impacts on the lives and health of people without homes.”

Vancouver Coastal Health employees issue letter

On Friday, 44 employees of Vancouver Coastal Health published a letter in The Georgia Straight, denouncing the decampment, as well as their employer.

Fraser MacPherson, a registered nurse, told CTV News that himself and other frontline workers initiated the letter because they were disturbed by the institutional silence from Vancouver Coastal Health.

“I'm not comfortable continuing to do this work and not say anything about how significantly this is harming people,” he said. “It is my job to also push back against the employer, because my patients and my clients who are experiencing all of this harm over the last week are not in a place to do that. Folks are trying to survive.”

MacPherson said since the mass decampment, outreach workers have struggled to connect with clients. He said he knows of folks who use drugs who have missed doses of medication, has heard of people unable to access Overdose Prevention Sites and knows of others who have felt intimidated because of the increased police presence in the area.

“It's just been such chaos. And so dehumanizing,” MacPherson said.

In a statement to CTV News, Vancouver Coastal Health said it’s aware of the open letter and takes the concerns outlined it in seriously.

“VCH is committed to providing care to those who need it, especially our most vulnerable populations during the recent City of Vancouver-led decampment,” the statement said. Top Stories

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