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'I can’t think of a better location': Advocates want Yaletown overdose prevention site to remain

People who use drugs and advocates are vocalizing their support of a downtown overdose prevention site in response to some residents — and a prominent developer — who no longer want it in their backyard.

Sarah Blyth, the executive director of the Overdose Prevention Society, said the Thomus Donaghy Overdose Prevention Site is in an ideal neighborhood, close to other social services such as the Gathering Place.

“I can’t think of a better location for this overdose prevention site,” she said. “Obviously, sometimes there’s people out front waiting to get in. Maybe that means there needs to be more sites.”

The OPS is located on 1100 Seymour Street and offers on-site monitoring and drug testing, as well as other services in response to the province’s toxic, illicit drug supply that has claimed the lives of thousands of people.

Those who work on the frontlines of this issue are building a case for the OPS to stay. Jasmine Veark, an outreach worker and advocate, created a template for people to fill out and submit to the city in support of it.

“The main stakes for me are that I could lose people I care about and love. That is the biggest thing,” Veark said.

Max Deraiche moved to Vancouver a few months ago from Quebec. As a person who uses drugs, he said he doesn’t feel comfortable accessing the OPS on the Downtown Eastside, instead preferring to frequent the Yaletown location.

“It provides a nice service, it’s professional, and anonymous. If that is not there, where to go?” he said.

It’s a question that’s been asked repeatedly as of late. In April, Vancouver city councillor Peter Meiszner said he was in favour of moving the site, citing issues raised by some residents, such as discarded needles on the sidewalk.

Despite calls for the OPS to be moved, there are currently no plans to do so. In a statement to CTV News, Vancouver Coastal Health, the health authority that oversees the city’s overdose prevention sites, said, “VCH is committed to continuing to operate this site as a good neighbour, and to work with municipal government and service partners to address issues if they arise.”

VCH added that it had made adjustments to the OPS, such as establishing a quarterly tenants’ meeting with the City of Vancouver to understand and address feedback from the community, regular needles sweeps to pick up discarded litter and ongoing dialogue with various stakeholders.

In May, one of the city’s largest developers, Wall Financial Corp., filed a petition with the B.C. Supreme Court in response to the site, which is located near one of its properties at 1111 Seymour Street. Wall Financial Corp. claims the petition is “directed at the city’s failure to comply with its own site-specific zoning bylaws which govern where certain services can be located within the city.”

The petition goes on to state that since the OPS opened two years ago, “there was an immediate surge in issues at Seymour Residences, including incidents of people loitering or passing out along the block and in the entryway, of people attempting to gain access to the courtyard and the parkade (by following tenants trying to exit or enter their home) and of attempted and successful break-ins and theft.”

The City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health are listed as respondents and have 21 days from the filing date to do so. Top Stories

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