Desperate DTES businesses write open letter to politicos, police

Post by Carlos Herbst in


DTES resident searches for some crack cocaine - Flickr photo by Patrick Doheny

Recently received a note from Downtown Eastside business person Carlos Herbst asking our help in promoting the open letter written by him and signed by fellow business owners in that vicinity. We provide here below in its entirety with Herbst's follow-up comments.

This is an open letter and responses from policy makers, government officials and law enforcement.

This is our city. We hire these people at the voting booth and we have the power to fire them if they fail to do their jobs or lie to us.

I will not comment on the responses on-line although I may or may not comment to the individuals themselves. This is not about my opinion. It is about the responses provided by those who have the power, authority and political clout to instill change in policy. I feel if comments are posted they may be used as "ammunition" in future political promises. In other words we will be assisting those seeking re-election or reinstatement by providing them with the words and solutions that we want to hear.

If however enough of you feel that it is important to include a comment box, I will consider and respect your wishes.

The following is Mr. Herbst's open letter...


  • The Honourable Gordon Campbell, Premier of British Columbia
  • Mayor Gregor Robertson
  • Jenny Kwan - MLA Vancouver - Mount Pleasant
  • Chief Constable Jim Chu

This is unfortunately the third time that I have had to take the time out of my very busy schedule to voice, on behalf of myself and the business owners whose signatures are included, our collective and utter helplessness and disgust, in regards to the situation presented to us on a daily basis on the 200 block of the DTES.

I have personally run a business on the 200 block for six years, a relatively short period of time as compared to some of my neighbors but it sometimes seems as if I've actually been here for sixteen years. It is hard to describe the frustration that one feels when confronted with the daily chores of sweeping condoms, syringes and piles of refuse which have been discarded by the nocturnal drug culture which gathers in front of my and every other business to traffic in and abuse illegal narcotics.

Perhaps if it was cleaned up before I got to work everything would be fine, correct? Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong!

This "criminal" behaviour continues throughout the day, every day, 365 days of the year and it is getting worse since the conclusion of the 2010 games.

It is quite well known and understood that small businesses are the cornerstone of economic sustainability and growth. It is also well known that these are economically troubled times and It takes a lot of discipline, determination and hard work to continue operations and to grow a company.

l ask you then why, with everything that we, as proud and hard working business owners, entrepreneurs and tax payers have to put up with, should we be also subjected to the dally abuse, threats of physical harm and constant confrontation with people openly trafficking in illegal drugs, smoking crack, injecting drugs and lining the sidewalks with salvaged as well as stolen wares in front of our doorways and storefronts.

Frankly the excuse of "we don't have enough police officers, we don't have enough jails, we believe in catch and release and rehabilitation, our sentencing standards are too lax", just don't cut it. To the local and provincial leaders, we elected you because WE trusted and believed in your integrity, competence and ability to confront and resolve this blight on the City of Vancouver and its reputation as a world class city. Do your job!

To the outstanding men and women of the VPD, we fully realize that you are understaffed and recognize the frustration that you must experience as a result of our dysfunctional legal system which seems to treat criminals, whether they be foreigners who have found their way here under the guise of political, or persecuted refugee status as well as homegrown criminals to a different standard. The fact remains though that it is your job to "serve and protect" us and it is not our responsibility to enforce the laws of the land. This puts us DIRECTLY in harm's way and results in unnecessary stress, vandalism and often threats of personal injury or even worse.

At fifty-seven years old I didn't feel that I and my fellow business owners and citizens should be subjected to this responsibility and the repercussions that we experience on a daily basis. Please don't tell us to call 911 or the non emergency line as this offers NO positive results whatsoever.

Smoking pot, crack and meth on the street and injecting drugs on the street is illegal. Selling drugs is illegal. Possessing illicit drugs is illegal and until the persons who blatantly involve themselves in this behaviour and who openly distribute illegal drugs that our poisoning an entire generation are held responsible for their actions, then none of you are doing the jobs WE pay you to do! Enabling drug use is not and never will be a solution yet this seems to be the pattern. The fact that when society makes it more difficult to indulge in a product, even a highly addictive product like nicotine, the less people continue using it is obvious as well as documented.

Does it not occur to you that the same would hold true with drugs?

For six years now I have seen the same leaders of the street level crack and heroin trade overseeing their crews. I know who they are and the police know who they are as does everyone else who spends any time here. It is quite obvious. They strut around as if they are untouchable. To them our legal system is a joke and they are right, it is! Why are they still here? What are they doing in this country?

It is time for change and we do not mean temporary change but positive progression to a system which works for ALL citizens. If this means that those sitting on the bench who are hindering this positive progression must be removed then let us know how to accomplish this and we will make our voices and our concerns heard.

Consider your response to this letter and this petition carefully as prior to the next election we will collectively pay to have this letter as well as your responses published in the local print media as well as online. Copies will also be made available to any local television media that expresses interest so that all citizens can draw their own conclusions and can then react accordingly at the voting booth.

Enough is enough!


Charles "Carlos" Herbst
Downtown Eastside business owner

Herbst also conducted a local petition with signatures blurred out for fear of repercussions, and has published the response of only one respondent – MLA Jenny Kwan.

This petition is signed by EVERY business owner on both sides of the 200 block with the exception of a few isolated locations whom we know are actively involved in some aspect of trafficking.

The business owners have ask me to not divulge their names publicly. Do you understand that politicians!

Hard working, tax paying Canadian business owners who are AFRAID to divulge their names for fear of repercussions from criminals and addicts. This is 2010 in Vancouver BC. Does this seem right to you?

- post by Carlos Herbst. See Herbst's web page set up for his open letter, the petition and the responses from politicians and the Chief of Police at


Bravo Charles!


It's interesting the writer cites nicotine as a success in reducing usage of a lethal substance, because that is a drug that is regulated not criminalized. The sale of nicotine is specifically licensed and controlled and heavily regulated by all three levels of government, allowing them to control sales to minors and educate young people not to use the drug.

It's also worth noting that nicotine, which is regulated rather than criminalized is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year - millions worldwide. Yet it is grown and sold legally while being heavily regulated by governments because it is so dangerous.

Contrast that with illegal substances which are completely unregulated and left to gangs of criminals to control. Sales to minors carry no special penalty or fine and quality is not controlled so that people are regularly poisoned.

As the letter-writer notes, nicotine is indeed a good reference point - we should regulate not legislate personal drug use, including carefully controlled sales just as we do with lethal cigarettes. That would get sales off the streets.

Portugal has seen useage rates drop, new HIV/AIDS infection-rates drop by half, and a striking decline in use by teenagers now that sales are heavily regulated.

We regulate the sale of lethal cigarettes, even more deadly alcohol which is the underlying cause of more than 3/4 of the problems in the DTES, and nuclear power ... surely we can find a way to regulate the sale of street drugs and end the street bazaars now blighting our public streets.

rather than getting hung up on the merits of legalization of drugs, perhaps it might be better to hear the intent of the author.

The author is feeling abandoned and at the very least ignored while the professional politicians sit back and debate theories that pose as solutions.

I guess you could tell the merchants out there that they chose to locate there so get over it - or we could recognize that they need as much support as the people that call the DES home.

Listen to the desperation and frustration in their words. It is simply not fair.

I am coming around to your way of thinking, Sean.

i ahte the concept of legalization, because do we really need to support more mind altring substances. Ont he other hand regulation might bean option.

I feel for the merchant and businesses down there. The laws are being flouted all over the place. i wonder: is Chief Chu taking orders from the City on this one?

I also feel that until regulation could be effect that those buying, smoking, etc. should be subject to fines. After alll, who is buying? Not all the business in this province is selling to the DTES. Your garden variety lawyers, accoutants, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, and union folks partake too.

Since they need the supply they should be willing to pay some part of the price, since they are part of the problem.

Ironic, isn't it? We see the worst and most obvious of drug use on the streets. Yet, so much is going on in homes, schoolyards and work places in this town.

For the first time today, I heard a new MAAD ad on the radio which says that weed is an intoxicant, too. BCAA has pointed out that it believes that the number of pot smokers behind the wheel today far outstrips those who are drunk.

Of course, as per usual, we are behind in both testing and legislation to deal with this problem.

As a resident of Railtown for the past 11 years, I can certainly share in the frustration felt by this business owner - it's sickening to see this ongoing trade continue and to watch people slowly killing themselves with their drug of choice.

However, to offer a brief comment on the legalization issue - if it's illegal now and people are doing it... what's the difference? Legalize it and people will still find a way to get around the system to do it illegally anyway. Same as kids getting cigarettes and alcohol. They get it despite the rules in place to supposedly stop them from doing so.

The city is working hard to provide homes for those without them, and most of the buildings are in this neighbourhoods - don't those residents deserve to live in a safe, clean neighbourhood with amenties like retail shops and businesses like the ones supported by these owners?

Something has to change here before it's truly too late. Kudos to this owner for speaking his mind - let's hope someone is listening!

Sean you speak the truth. This whole war on drugs has done little to help the downtown eastside. I think the businesses located there should all be given the order of Canada for keeping their doors open in such a filthy and crime ridden neighbourhood.

Charles you should be applauded for raising awareness of your desperate plight. Hopefully the mayor will listen to your call for help!


Thank you for standing up and speaking. Your words were well thought out and reasoned.
We all know that every politician in town is reading this.... who if anyone of them, has the integrity to reach out and do something about your query....
I wish you the best sir.

"Legalize it and people will still find a way to get around the system to do it illegally anyway. Same as kids getting cigarettes and alcohol. They get it despite the rules in place to supposedly stop them from doing so."

Well sure, that can be said of anything though. Speeding is illegal, but people find ways around it and do it anyways! Murder is illegal, but people do it anyways!

The idea of legalization is not to stop all illegal drug use. The idea is to create a government regulated market which people can buy from. Currently, if I say wanted to buy some weed, my only option would be to purchase it illegally from a drug dealer. If i could do it legally, that would be much more appealing (as i would be contributing tax dollars and my money would not be going to the criminal world and i would not be breaking any laws).

in the mean time - while all this debate rages on... and assuming it would actually change things - maybe in 3-5-10 years... who is going to stand up and help these businesses that pay rent, taxes, employ people and contribute to society.

No businesses equals no jobs, equals no economy, equals no tax dollars to support the DTES and all the folks that want it all to stay the same (their jobs depend on it!)

Our Progressive elites don't actually care, really care about the people of the DTES.

They want to appear to care, appear to be kind & generous, appear to be open minded, appear to have the best interests of the DTES residents in mind.

That they cannot accept reality, that they cannot see there policies and programs of enabling drug use, of being soft on drug sellers, of removing any personal responsibility of the druggies for their own self-inflicted conditions, just ensures these people will remain addicted and impoverished for the duration of their miserable lives.

When our political, media and social leadership realizes, finally, that the policies they so love are causing more harm, then progress can be made.

They only question is how many others will be attracted from their homes across BC to move to the DTES, how many more moths to the sacrificial flame, how many more will suffer and die on the altar of Progressive Socialism?

What ever happened to Vancouver's acclaimed Four Pillars Drug Strategy? Gregor Robertson seems more worried about bike lanes and backyard chickens thank cleaning up the downtown eastside. We'll remember that in the next election. Unfortunately, many more businesses in the dtes will shut their doors before then.

Hi There,

I have worked in the DTES, 200 block of Hastings.

I can appreciate where this letter is coming from, but when I took my job in the DTES I was aware of the area and the below behaviour and lifestyle of the residence.

I understand the many dynamics of the area.

I believe Mr. Herbst would have been aware of the 'areas' history.

Why would he start in a business in an area where he was going to be so annoyed? Did he think he was going to see 'change' in the area? All he is is frustrated and angry.

If you were a light sleepers, would you purchase a home by an airport???

Where should money be spent??? In the school system on children who need the support their parents can not give them due to the parents own lack of coping skills. Addicts are just that because they are trying to 'numb their minds'. If children where given coping school, they would not need to' numb their minds'.

What can the police do? What can the Mayor do? The addicts are just trying to survive. Housing isnt going to help that person in the picture of the article. Many people down there would not know the first thing about keeping a 'home'. And do they even want a 'home'?

Glad to see these business owners' struggles has broken down into the usual bullshit debate on whether drugs should be legalized.

The people down there need help and this is what the dialogue devolves into. FN Pathetic.

Thanks Sean Bickerton....another winning position for you to take. These business owners have a problem Sean.

Instead of railing on his concerns as you did, why not congratulate him for having the nerve to speak out with multiple crack dealers breathing down his neck.

I don't see you down on the 200 of EH asking the dealers to move on so these people can earn a living. No, instead you'd like to bring up his comments on nicotene and how they're worse than street drugs. Yeah, that's a great way to help the man, today. Great leadership skills on his current problems Sean.

Perhaps you could show us some leadership and why anyone in the city should vote for you next time around by going down there and helping the man with his current situation, rather than debating him on yes or no to drug legalization.

Since legalization isn't about to occur any time soon and it's really out of everyone's hands, why not offer some solutions Sean......oh yeah, that's right because you don't have any.

If I'm ANY business person in this city, after reading your lack of emathy to Carlos' sitation and the approach you've taken to comment on this post, knowing your party is the NPA, I'd be finished with the party permanently.

Bill McCreery, are you paying attention to this? Do you want guys like Sean leading your party into 2011? A busines owner has a problem and he gets attacked instead of empathy and support.

Just what the NPA needs, potential candidates that show no empathy unless you have a needle stuck in your arm, and who prefer to get into more philosophical debates than to actually solve problems?

Cause you know we have a bunch of that now......and we had a bunch of that with COPE debating Star Wars and George Bush.

Perhaps Gregor wasn't that far off when he used the term "f--king NPA hacks.

Like I said before, start revoking memberships before its too late.

Good points, edot, and I fully admit my comments regarding legalization aren't well informed, just my own personal reaction against the idea.

To bring the focus back to the point of the article, I'm wholeheartedly agreeing with the notion that rampant hard drug use is being tolerated in this neighbourhood where it wouldn't be elsewhere. Unfortunately many people are happy to allow this ghetto to continue for their own political and financial reasons. Meanwhile, one of the most beautiful and historic neighbourhoods in our city is slowly rotting away, and more importantly, so are many of the current residents. It is simply tragic.

@ K
Sorry but I don't agree with you at all.
The author of this letter took great courage.
We have been told for years by poverty pimps that this is going to be dealt with. Perhaps Charles believed that, and tried to be part of the solution instead of just being a negative bystander.

After reading your post I wonder, are you employed with one of the poverty pimp agencies trying to hold onto your union paying job on the backs of the vulnerable, weak, drug infected, portion of our society.... then I can see why you would prefer that the insanity continues.
This store owner is a honest Hero in my eyes. For Charles the carnage must stop. I agree with him.
Why should he move,perhaps it was the only area he could afford the rent, he pays taxes, and is trying to improve his neighborhood legally. I believe you are chastising the wrong party, it should be the governments lack of Vision that is the problem.

Yet another reason why electing Sean Bickerton would be a disaster.

I worked on the DTES for several years. I donated (and continue to do so) my time--away from my wife and children, because like former cop Al Arsenault and the entire Odd Squad team, like former RCMP Cali-cartel infiltrator Bill Majher, like David Berner, who has treated thousands of addicts, I understand the problem.

Bickerton, once again, adopts the absolutely WRONG position that will cost people their lives--much like his pal Sam Sullivan, whose CAST, if formerly allowed to flourish would have cost THOUSANDS of addicts their lives.

Please pay attention: legalization DOES NOT work. Recently, Bickerton featured an article by the NY Times that included the clarion call of a fool named Dr. Evan Wood. He is a local hocus pocus peddler who wants you all to rail against the Tories for harsher sentences. What Wood (and alarmingly Bickerton) don't tell you is that Giuliani was successful in New York by doing what Dianne Watts is doing to clean up Surrey--more cops, pushing for stiffer penalties. Wood, is more concerned about the AIDS rate and hails Portugal as a place where legalization efforts have worked. But he (and Bickerton because as usual, he only scratches the surface of issues and then has his husband pop up as defender--another Brian Burke;Jennifer Mather crew LOL!) don't tell you is that Holland is REVERSING on their lax laws because legalization has created TWO GENERATIONS of zombies and increased using. They don't tell you about the successes against the cartels in Columbia or Mexico. They do not tell you about the fight against the dealers in Italy, they don't want you to know about the Four Pillars in Germany (that included lax marijuana laws).

There are only three things that can stop drugs: 1) Knowledge (kids need to be told from a young age that drugs are not the way) 2) Stricter enforcement (what fucking war on drugs are people like Bickerton talking about? In Canada, you get four years on average for trafficking in large amts of cocaine!) 3) ABSTINENCE based treatment) IT's the only thing that has ever worked with success. But the addict HAS TO WANT IT. I have interviewed over 200 addicts and have written extensively about addiction. Every last one of them echo the sentiments of Carols, who in my mind, is a HERO.

He writes:

"Enabling drug use is not and never will be a solution yet this seems to be the pattern. The fact that when society makes it more difficult to indulge in a product, even a highly addictive product like nicotine, the less people continue using it is obvious as well as documented."

Bickerton, of course, misses the point entirely. Smoking among young people has gone down NOT because the wretched weed has been legalized or controlled, but because it made more difficult to get and because we do not allow any more advertising on ANYTHING.

Funny too, how the three things I note above were noted by me when I interviewed Rudy Giuliani a few years ago. Bickerton, was actually living in New York at the time those successes were taking place.

Perhaps he was busy.

Legalization simply makes YOU, the taxpayer, the drug competition bureau. The dealer, after having gotten off the floorboards of his Ferrari from laughter, will lace his marijuana with something MORE, BETTER, for a faster, more intense high.

In my day, marijuana had about 8% THC. Now it's around 34%.

I am not opposed to killing off stricter sentences for someone caught with a joint. It's a waste of taxpayers dollars.

But legalization is a FOOL'S PARADISE and has DESTROYED many a country.

Perhaps Sean Bickerton consider the NY Times his Bible, but I don't.

What I consider relevant in this discussion is that drugs KILL. Legalizing them is the mantra of the obsessed.

And I'll say it here again: The drug dealer of the 21st century isn't tattooed and doesn't wear a solid gold, diamond-encrusted Breitling, while driving around in a Porsche.

...he wears a white labcoat, while carrying and fountain pen and prescription pad.

Wake up Sean. You just continue to dig yourself deeper.

@Glen - I've been working tirelessly for the past two and a half years to help clean up my neighbourhood at pender and abbott - 1 block from the area in question - which is where I make my home. I have picked up needles and trash with my own hands and cleaned up the most god-awful messes from vacant lots. I have also gone around during the campaign and since to introduce myself to most of the local businesses and organizations in the area. I own a business too, and I operate it here.

And contrary to your assertion, I just helped organize a community meeting with the Police Chief on public safety in this area. We raised exactly these kind of concerns about needles and public drug use directly with the chief, two city councillors and a park board commissioner.

I've also spent the past 2 1/2 years since the election meeting with people and organizing efforts to help find solutions to some of the city's intractable problems. That search is based on identifying best practices elsewhere.

My mention of Portugal's success in cleaning up the exact problem the man has identified is not unsympathetic to his plight but instead designed to offer a very specific answer to how his problem can be solved. And legalization isn't the answer, just to set the record straight. Strict regulation and licensing clearly within the city's purview, coupled with robust enforcement, is.

Another specific solution I've recommended is diverting just $1 million dollars to hire enough mental health workers to be available on-call to the police 24/7 so that they can deal with those needing treatment and mental health services, freeing the police to focus on crime. The current administration dedicated $12 million instead to adding more police - after a 20% reduction in crime under Sam Sullivan! Those police officers have neither the time nor training to deal with the alcohol addiction and mental health issues underlying most of the problems the man is dealing with.

Additionally, you talk a lot about the NPA, yet you aren't a currently registered donor or volunteer for the NPA and I've never seen you at one NPA event. I know this because I've been at every NPA event and volunteered hundreds of hours to help rebuild the party. In my experience with people that post the kind of anti-NPA vitriol you do, it's usually someone who sat on their hands during the last election doing nothing while the rest of us fought our hearts out, then blamed the NPA because Vision won ...

You mention Bill, someone who actually does voluteern for the NPA ... he and I were at Pride yesterday, manning the NPA booth together. We've never had so many people come up to us telling us how desperate they are for us to re-take City Hall, and despite all the things you seem to hate about my positions and what I'm doing, it does seem to be resonating with voters in a way we haven't seen in more than two years now.

Carry on attacking everything to do with the NPA and everyone associated with it. That seems to be your specialty. For me, I'm focused on the positive and doing everything necessary to help our candidates win the next election.

George's post here, should be required reading.

Carlos is a HERO!

Carlos, if you're so inclined, contact me at

I'll delightedly help you get your succinct message across.

The only viable solution at the moment (that doesn't involve changing/adding/removing laws) is to open enough mental health beds to forcibly get these people off the street and clean using the "danger to yourself or others" clause of the Mental Health Act. The laws are in place, there just isn't enough space, and cops are often turned away when they bring clearly insane people to the hospital for needed treatment.

re: "They don't tell you about the successes against the cartels in Columbia or Mexico."

That's the funniest thing I've read this year, you should write for the Colbert Report! PLEASE tell us more of these amazing successes!

is this the kind of success you meant?
"Mexican drug lord makes Forbes' billionaire list"

re: "In my day, marijuana had about 8% THC. Now it's around 34%."

So does drinking a beverage with 8% alcohol somehow change how dangerous alcohol is as a drug, when compared to a 34% liqueur? Or is it the SAME drug basically packaged in a different way? Should we ban Vodka because beer is "safer"? Awesome logic there.

re: "There are only three things that can stop drugs: 1) Knowledge (kids need to be told from a young age that drugs are not the way)"

Knowledge isn't being told by a corporate funded government propagandist that something is "bad". Telling kids that pot is a dangerous scary drug is counterproductive because when they find out it isn't they assume everything else you told them was "bad" isn't either. Then they end up strung out on coke or meth which actually ARE bad. Look at America.

re: "What I consider relevant in this discussion is that drugs KILL"

Yeah, except the one you focus on and seem to hate the most. Is it relevant to focus on something that doesn't kill in a discussion about killing?

If you want to talk about deadly drugs, how about Tylenol? Acetaminophen toxicity is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the US and the UK, not booze or street drugs. Tylenol overdose results in more calls to poison control centers in the US than overdose of any other drug.

It's funny Alex, how we can be so simpatico in person and still occupy such opposite poles of the political spectrum.

And with all respect, as you mention, I did live in Manhattan from 1986 - 2006. As you know NYC's history so well, you'd know It was actually Koch that rescued NYC from bankruptcy, not Rudy, and restored the city to the amazing success it is now. Giuliani only took over after the city was already booming again, and after the good work of Koch and Dinkins restored good relations with minority communities. He took over at the city's peak, and left office one of the most ridiculed Mayors in New York history.

His Police Chief, Bernie Kerick, the man Rudy wanted made Director of Homeland Security, was so deeply in bed with the mob he was indicted and sentenced to jail time. Those were not the only ties to organized crime that swirled around the Mayor and Kerick, the driver that used to take him to trysts with his mistresses.

It was Kerick as well as Giuliani that insisted the city's Emergency Response Centre be put into the World Trade Centre even after they were warned by security officials that building was a target for future attacks - yet another of his decisions that left us vulnerable that morning and without an adequate emergency response in the days immediately following the attacks.

Worse, the radio systems he bought for NYC's fire department relied on didn't work inside cement towers ... this is in Manhattan we're talking about, which is why we lost more than 300 firemen that day needlessly. It was a travesty of failed leadership!

His one success, what people call the "broken windows" strategy, was not his but the police department's development of the same common-sense Comp-Stat policing that we use here in Vancouver - evidence-based policing with the idea that we take care of smaller problems before they become worse. I've been a strong advocate of this system since I ran for council.

When he finally left office after 3 messy divorces and very public affairs, his reputation was in tatters and his Presidential run became a laughing-stock of the entire nation. He didn't win one primary! The only reason people know his name today is because he showed leadership in the vacuum immediately following the attacks of 9/11 when the White House hid waiting for it all to be over.

Other than that, I'm sure he was a swell guy.

Regarding my husband, I'd strongly suggest we leave our respective families out of policy discussions ...

You need to read more carefully.

And think...

Columbia used to be the cocaine capital of the world. That's done now. Why? Because the US DEA, Mexico under Calderon, but beginning with Fox, and Colombia all banded together to take apart the infrastructure of corruption and glamourization of drugs. They started in schools and ended up in the fields of Columbia, where they confronted the problem head on--no more heads organizing, no more gangs agrowing... Are there still issues? Of course, there always will be but the evidence is clear. Colombia's problems are SIGNIFICANTLY lessened. Go read 'The New Cocaine Cowboys' by Robert Bonner in the latest issue of 'Foreign Affairs'.

Your comparison of THC levels in marijuana and percentage alcohol is laughable and uneducated, if not idiotic. The toxic entrails of marijuana are in fact fat soluble so they do not pass through the body like, for example, less filtered alcohol like Jack Daniels. Plus, my point was not about any kind of comparison but in the context of how harmful marijuana is to one's health. Ask any level-headed addictionologist to tell you: They're much rather deal with someone coming off alcohol than anything else. Drugs, including marijuana cause longer term damage as they are more easily abused. Alcohol is also abused but the corrective process is easier and more fluid.

There is a definite reason why the higher grade marijuana is more desirable (and expensive), and that's simply because it gives the user a more powerful high--that was my point. Studies in the Netherlands and U.S. show marijuana can and often does cause apathy, diminishes mental capacity, causes difficulty in concentrating, decline in performance, and lost motivation. Thousands of studies also show marijuana use adversely affects the brain, reproduction process, immune system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, and remains in the body for extended periods of time. In addition, marijuana use often impairs normal thought processes, distorts reality, reduces self-control, and releases inhibitions, all of which increase the chance of harmful and criminal behavior. Many times the user is unaware he or she is being affected unless told by others. A Stanford Medical School study showed commercial pilots to be impaired 24 hours after smoking one joint, even though they felt they were functioning normally. In conclusion, the bottom line is, whenever persons are under the influence, they pose a threat to themselves and others.

Any validity to your argument(s) if administered an enema, could be then contained in a thimble.

well, in 22 posts we have managed to spend most of the conversation talking about everything but the topic at hand. How typical.

All this pontificating has done absolutely nothing to find a timely solution to the daily challenge of businesses trying to survive on the DTES. Perhaps it is because nobody actually cares? Perhaps it is easier to blame them for their problems. Funny how it is so easy to cast blame on a business owner for their choices and how quick we are to defend our lack of action, the addicted and the dealers.

Shameful. We have truly lost our way.

We are simpatico because, fundamentally, I think you're a terrific guy who could make a fantastic candidate, if you decided to do some work, instead of simply embracing the easy way--the perceived politically correct policy of the day. It's absurd, for me, knowing you the way I do, to watch you throw an otherwise good political career away because you don't think before either speaking or writing when it comes to matters of public interest. You agree with Vision on bikes lanes, when even some of the cycling public TOLD YOU yesterday at the Pride Parade (yes, I have my informants of how diligent you were and what you were doing) that they are in fact AGAINST the cycling infrastructure because it goes too far and in most cases is unsafe and panders to the extremists, they cycling fascists of the 'Critical Mass' ilk. And that's just one example.

Your legalization absurdities are yet another. Without, once, having been to the DTES and SEE the destruction Insite and other enabler agencies have accomplished, you go even beyond that on the continuum of insanity to suggest that making dope more available will cut out the dealer and lessen the demand, when in the Netherlands and Spain, it had the opposite effect.

You need SERIOUS candidate training.

As for your contention about Giuliani, of course you won't admit to his successes, because you're in love with Democrats and he's a Republican. BTW, Koch, who is a soft-Republican, although he ran as a Democrat (and supported, horror or horros, Dubya, who now looks like a MUCH better President that the current incompetent idiot) was openly supportive of the, as he called them, "new initiatives" of Rudy Giuliani. I think you're confused, um, AGAIN. I, too, lived part-time in New York, as you're aware, in 1999, and I saw things with a clearer head.

The push to really clean up NYC came under Giuliani, even another of your heroes Cuomo admitted to this.

Dinkins??? HE was the laughingstock. A total disaster.

What Kerik did is no consequence.

Besides, stick to the issue--you're wrong on legalization and will hurt any party you occupy, except Vision, whose policies you seem in line with.

Okay, great point, happy to oblige:

1) Shut down Insite. Shut down Onsite (a pretox facility right above where crack addicts are using--a drug no-no)

2) Force addicts into rehab and available beds (something Gregor promised to lobby for and has done NOTHING about)

3) Re-open Riverview and fully fund it, with no Rich Coleman wet dreams about luxury towers etc. built by friends of the BC LIEberals.

4) Demand that Mark Townsend open the books of the Portland Hotel Society and show us what he's being paid to assist in perpetrating the suffering. Demand a public audit of what the Portland Hotel Society does on the DTES.

5) Double the funding to Harbourlight.

6) Purge from Vancouver Coastal Health of Dr. Michael Krauss and others who believe in harm seduction and are nothing more than grief pimps and povertarians.

7) Remove the self-titled Center for Excellence form the equation so long as it is being run by the likes of Dr. Julio Montaner, who is a political disciple of the enabling tyranny.

That's a start. But is Kevin Falcon listening.

Don't hold your breath.

It is unfortunate that various commenters in this & other posts tend to become quite so personal in their comments.

I am 1 member of the NPA, as is Sean. I & others active in the organization are working to make the organization more effective. Sean is also. Careful readers will recall not all NPA members who comment on these blogs as well as elected people are always in agreement in such forums. One of the reasons is the limitation in fully expressing one's point of view in such a forum. But, the NPA is in fact as well as name non-partisan which means we do not always sing from the same song book.

It's easy to be critical but, not so to put yourself on the line. I would have appreciated had the NPA critics in the present company come forward to vote for the adopt policies & name change motions which would have, in my opinion, made the work of the NPA more effective. You didn't & we move on. Sean is right, the public response @ the NPA Pride booth yesterday was overwhelmingly positive.

With respect to the explicit, sad daily disaster on Hastings it is my opinion that we have a better chance of winning the guerilla wars in the middle East than we do the War on Drugs or the Canadian apologetic version. Prohibition didn't work either.

I am not going to get into all aspects of this issue here but, I will say although there are jurisdictional limitations, there is much more the City can & must be doing. The current administration is more interested in chicken coups & bike lanes than tackling the difficult problems in the DTES. A good deal can & should be done by the City & the Police Commission to alleviate the problems outlined by Mr. Herbst. He & his colleagues are right. This has gone to far & for to long.

A limiting aspect of politics seems to be that each regime seems to need to put its own stamp on things rather than building on what works. The '4 Pillars' has been put in the trash bucket. One of the Pillars is enforcement. That's a start & it's in the City's jurisdiction. The City needs to play a meaningful leadership role & they are not. I would like to see a continuation of Mayor Owen's efforts to, among other things after the 4 Pillars, have a public dialogue &, to reach conclusions for solutions. One outcome of this would be to raise the profile of the issue & consequently get the attention of senior governments. Sean says crime reduced 20% under Mayor Sam. Why? [I was away much of his regime] Are the measures that accomplished this being continued & improved? We don't know because Vision don't talk about this or do anything about it. And, if they do it's only self serving.

I can add that drugs caused my son to take is own life. I live with that each day.


Glad you tried to check me out, you won't find me that way, by MY choosing.

I've done more work civicly then you know or realize, I just don't feel the need to type out my resume in defence everytime I get called out for being a douche.

You've played the useless resume card with me 2x now, instead of addressing the issues I wrote about. Glad going over your resume of nonaccomplishment makes you feel better about yourself.

I'm quite sure Carlos didn't care for your answer, and is feeling quite helpless considering all this "amazing work" you're doing in your community.

Isn't former agent double-speak nice to see in print.

Now, lets see you win those west side votes for the NPA in 2011. I'll be making sure voters skip your name on any ballot should you try and run and/or win a nomination to run for council for the NPA.

Go hang out in Vision where you belong.

Oh, and I found it hilarious that Alex Tsakumis talked about Guiliani's reduction in crime and you glossed over that accomplishment by saying "it was actually Koch who saved the city from bankruptcy".

Then you go onto list Guiliani's failures before suggesting to leave your respective families out of the discussion.

Nice that you feel it's okay to bring Guiliani's into the mix but you're unwilling to go toe to toe on yours.

This Sean, along with so many other reasons is why you belong elsewhere. The sooner you wake up and realize it, the better for you and the NPA.


My comments are as such due to the approach Sean took in his first comment to Carlos's writing.

It was dead wrong to take this approach, and I stand by this.

If your candidates going forward take this approach to business owners with very legitimate concerns and frustration, your party is done, finished. They get enough of that bullshit right now.

So you and Sean work a booth and get positive reaction. Good for you. Then he turns around the next morning and ruins all that goodwill by opening his mouth.

Right now, despite Vision's failings, the NPA has not shown it deserves the right to govern again with its current crop of public spokespeople - who may as well be members of Vision.

Non-partisan shouldn't mean keeping people around that are a detriment to the future success of an organization.

We need to place one or two houses in the DTES that have doors and windows (placed low for entry safety) that are always unlocked. The house needs to be stocked with a lot of small easy to carry but somewhat valuable items such as:
Small appliances and anything else that we can think of.

The houses need to be always unlocked so the DTES addicts and other assorted street people can go in a "steal" stuff. They are going to steal anyway - why not make it safe to steal?
After they steal stuff from the house they can come to the "fencing" house that is in the DTES and "sell" what they stole. Because the city will run both the houses that people steal from and the fencing house - stuff can be placed back to the stealing houses easily. This will save the city some money as we wont have to constantly be purchasing more stuff for people to steal.

There are various benefits to doing this:

Addicts and other street people can feel like they have contributed (by personally stealing stuff instead of just getting a "handout").

It will lower the amount of more dangerous breakins where people can get hurt because the stealing houses would be designed to be "safe" to steal from. We may even want to put in a safe injection site in the houses

Eventually we can just sell the addicts drugs that the city produces itself - and make the money back on this program...

Do you think this is a good idea? Do you think this will work? It IS WHERE WE ARE HEADING. Fucking enablers - No one wants to do what is OBVIOUS that must be done to clean things up. ENFORCE THE EXISTING LAWS AND CLEAN UP THE CITY - NOW. WHY is this so complicated!?

Somebody better wake and become a viable alternative to Vision - because Vision is done.

The DTES will never change until society gains the will to make it change.

As it stands now, there are roughly 177 'groups' working in the DTES. They receive government monies as well as private donations and will work to keep the status quo rather than lose the funding.

Articles published over the past 2 years state that on an average, we, the taxpayers, spend $1 M per day in the DTES - on roughly 14,000 people. 5% of BC's welfare recipients live in the DTES. There are roughly 6,000 needle users in a 10 block radius.

Where does this money go to?

InSite is nothing more that a government sanctioned drug house. It has not stopped or slowed down needle usage in the area and has not stopped the increase in HIV/AIDS or Hep. C. Stats from 2008 to 2010 show an increase in the numbers.

You can't blame the police as their hands are virtually tied. Not just by the bleeding heart judges and our well known 'revolving door' justice system, but by the advocates that scream blue bloody murder whenever the police make any type of move to enforce the laws in this area. Groups like the BC Civil Libs, Pivot, Carnegie and VANDU. As soon as the police take a step - these groups rally in front of the various MSM crying discrimination and persecution of the 'marginalized' people of this area. And if you think that the street people, the users and dealers aren't fully aware they are protected, think again. The shelters and other groups let these people know of their 'rights'.

There is a set of laws operating in the DTES and it is not the same as the laws the rest of us are expected to follow.

There are detox beds/mental health beds available. 60 new beds have been opened at Riverview and the facility Lorne Mayencourt has in Prince George, which is both a short and long-term facility is at less than 50% capacity.

But, again, you will have the 'advocates' in the DTES arguing that the people that currently 'live' in that area shouldn't have to leave that area for treatment. Kind of like putting someone who is on a diet in a cake shop.

I truly feel for the shop owners in this area and agree changes need to be made. We need to get over being a city of enablers and start doing the right thing by some of these people and start showing them a bit of 'tough love'.

East Hastings, Hastings and Main Sts. need to be restored to what they once were. Take a look at old photos from the 50's and 60's. The area was vibrant - the heart of Vancouver. Not the drug infested rat hole we have allowed it to become.

@ Glen.

I agree, in his 1st comment Sean did not deal with the important immediate concerns of the writers of the letter.

Alex's 7 points below as well as other comments here need to be put on the decision-making agendas. The whole response to drugs is not working. Huge sums are being spent on a relatively small population to little effect. As I have said the City can have a role in this but, Vision is not delivering.

I hope the NPA Council in 2012 will put this squarely on their agenda, do cost/benefit reviews, build on what has worked, lobby senior governments relentlessly, insist on financial accountability & work together with the senior governments to achieve a plan that works. And, NO, it's not OK to let the DTES drug users permanently take over an entire street & terrorize business owners, other citizens as well as visitors.

Re: the NPA. Sean nor I are candidates for the NPA. We speak for ourselves only. We, as an organization are working to make the organization more effective & to get good candidates to run in 2011. We can use more fresh blood & ideas to help us & the signs are there that this is happening.

I suggest to anyone interested - watch 'The Beat' a docu-drama following the VPD that work the DTES area (filmed in 2009).

The 10 part series has been running on Friday nights - 9:00, channel 13 or, you can follow it on-line.

Very interesting perspective.

If I was insensitive to the concerns raised, i apologize to Carlos. That wasn't my intention and I've phoned him to offer my help.

I have read the string of comments with much interest.

I count Bill & Sean as friends and fellow NPA members with whom I often find myself in disagreement (which is the sign of a good party.. out of cognitive dissonance often comes very important ideas and actions).

As a business owner who happens to have a business in a "lesser" priviledged area, I have come to realize that throwing money and current practices are far from the answer. I can sympathize with the plight of business owners on the DTES as I my business is in a similar area in Surrey with many of the same issues and fears.

Enabling the poverty pimps, enablers and addicts who refuse to want to improve their lives and the area is a far cry from the answer to anything, except more of the same.

It's rather obvious that there are many vested interests in retaining the current dysfunction as is.....after all... all that cash needs to keep rolling to keep certain people employed.

This is a social, health and enforcement issue.

Until we develop a stong, determined and ongoing enforcement(not just shove it somewhere else)as well as comprehensive, effective treatment and detox (no we don't need Cadillac facilities, just a place with proven methods and appropriate housing.)

I realize this is easier said then done but until there is a real determination to do something and not just pandering, this will be an ongoing problem.

oh and please! spare me the results obtained in places overseas.. it's apples and oranges. Dealing with a primarily homogenous population in a city with a very different culture is a far cry from dealing with the varied and disparate population of the DTES and elsewhere in BC. While we may learn from it, adopting others methods hasn't worked and obviously won't work.

We can use other results for interpetation and adaptation but here's a novel concept.. how about we actually use some monery to develop our own programs that achieve quantifiable results and may be defined and evolve as needed to suit our own needs. .

The problem: how do you force people into treatment?

You could walk up to 50 'addicts' in the DTES and say 'Hey - I can help you get treatment right now if you want to go'.

I can guarantee you will have zero takers.

There are 497 identified chronic offenders operating in the DTES. All of these people have been before judges a multitude of times. The police that arrest them, judges, the lawyers all know that the vast majority of these people are addicts and yet, how many have been mandated to treatment? The vast majority of them spend less than 2 days in jail let alone be sent to detox. Case in point, Tracey Gaza, the man who stole the wedding rings from the 90 year old woman awaiting surgery. Gaza had over 47 convictions. He spent 1 day in jail for that theft, got out and victimized another elderly woman.

Aside from the fact there is a 6 person VPD task force assigned to track these people - which costs the taxpayers money, these 497 persons, on an average, cost us $1M each per year in policing, court costs, insurance costs etc.

Why are they still out and about - they commit property crime. And for whatever reason 'property crime' is looked at as a 'victimless' crime. Not taking into account how the actual victim feels.

Chief Chu was interviewed surrounding a report that verified the 'chronic offender' numbers. He stated that they (VPD) kind of thought they new the information they had compiled was correct but up until the report came out - could not verify it. He also stated that once he received the report he spoke to and sent a copy of the report to a 'high profile judge' who had feigned interest. He received no response back at the time he had been interviewed.

And now, the Bosman Hotel in the 1000 block of Howe has been converted to house the homeless and is being operated like the HEAT shelters were, with no restrictions (PHS is running it). The street level drug trade has moved into the area to help 'accommodate' the residents. Bike delivery service.

It is just great.

Hi Max,
Perhaps it is time we bring back and enforce the Vagrancy Act. Reopen Riverview, start mass treatment.

Bottom line if you are on the street and drug addicted, you can't be responsible for your decisions and it should be no different than enforcing the mental health act....because if you are on the street clawing for pieces of crack in the sidewalk cracks you aren't in your right mind and need treatment immediately!

Create a whole new employment industry...healing the helpless with result based funding attached... not just how many you cram in the many you actually treat and heal.
Hold the misery pimps responsible for the funding they receive. Show me the results. PHS should be the first agency to be reviewed for transparency.
It was recently pointed out to me by an activist fighting in the DTES for transparency, that PHS has 42 million dollars in can that be, if it is the truth. All that, and the number of addicts on the street keeps growing.
Time to rethink forced treatment....after all if they can force Lindsy Lohan to jail and directly to treatment on release ... why can't we deal with it in the same manor, have safe transitional housing as folks come out of treatment.
just a thought....we have so much duplication of agencies, with no results showing for it.
All union paid where are the results, we should be drug and homeless free by now with all the funding provided by several levels of government. Show me the money trail...

oops I did it again... sorry Max, last comment was from George.


At one point, Jim Green was assigned the task to account for the dollars spent in the DTES.

He claimed he tried, but could not do it. (Personally, I don't think he tried too hard for his 'own' reasons')

At last count, there were 177 groups operating or 'providing' services in the DTES.

These groups need to be culled and the duplication rid. The groups that are left can then focus on the tasks at hand and receive the funding needed to accomplish these tasks.

As for the PHS - they could very well hold those types of assets in the form of property. One of the First Nation groups that operates in that area were reported to have over $12 M in assets - hotels and other buildings.

A short time ago, there was another issue that arose in the DTES. I did some snooping about the persons involved - and I came across this statement posted by a DTES resident:

Met the great Mark Townsend today. Canada's biggest drug dealer. No Rock, Powder,Downs for him. He's Methadone,Methadone,Methadone. Onsite,Insite,Offsite matters little to him as long as you buy his Methadone.

interesting that Jim Green was given this task yet could not complete it.
Was he paid for that project, if so the funds need to be paid back.

Interesting blog on DTES subjects regarding Dera, BC Housing PHS Jim Green.


this woman has worked tirelessly trying to keep it honest. She certainly is crossing her T's and dotting the i's. From the amount of stone walling she is getting from all parties, I'd say she is on to something.

Too true. And, with this state of affairs, who in the world would want to start a business in that area of the DTES, or any part of the DTES, to try to revive and recommercialize the area? The three things that are needed are:

1. first and foremost, a lot more police, to interdict and break up illegal activities;

2. a major change to sentencing guidelines by the Provincial Government, with funding to oppose the inevitable constitutional challenges to more severe sentencing; and

3. public-works funding from the two senior levels of government for more jails and better security in jails.

As an aside, if we could port some money over from the City's compulsive spending on bicycling, and all governments' funding of anti-poverty groups whose main focus seems to be resistance to all forms of government, to fighting crime in the DTES, that would benefit the great majority at the expense of the few.

What has happened to the DTES in the last 50-60 years is disgraceful, and is a direct result of failed social-program legislation and enforcement. When my parents arrived here in 1950, the DTES was a clean, prosperous, respectable place to shop and live. There is no reason why it should have changed except for the damnable negligence that Mr. Herbst spotlights.

I do appreciate your call Sean but I also question your motives. The problems in the DTES which result in the problems which I originally addressed have been around for many years and it should not take a letter from me or anyone else to address and at least attempt to rectify the situation in a logical manner.

As stated this is not about me or my business or the other businesses who struggle daily. We are just symptoms of a larger problem which is the enabling of drug use and drug trafficking.

The DTES needs an intervention and it needs it now. Show me one intervention that has ever promoted enablement. In reviewing the comments I would say that the majority agree with this. Now it's just a matter of coordinating the majority and eliminating the parasites that thrive on the misery of others and those that sustain this behavior through policy that has been a dismal failure wherever in the world it was enacted.

You see through their actions they are complicit in the pain, hopelessness and death that is just too common in this area.

We are Canadians. Why do we have to follow other country's policies? Why can we not be leaders and create a system that the rest of the world can follow? One that actually works. We have the brilliant minds and the integrity right here. They just need to step up and be heard and they need the support of the majority which I am very sure they will get.

I humbly thank those who refer to me as a hero but I am not a hero at all. I am just a person who is trying to make a positive difference in a great city and a great country through dialogue because that's the starting point and it is necessary.

I also speak from vast experience as I existed with addiction and alcoholism for more than half my life. But it's been nine years and there's no looking back. There is only one solution and that is to stop using, period.

I stand by my original statement more than ever....
Carlos you are a hero.... you speak the truth and from experience, which makes your letter all the more profound. You call a spade a spade.
I wish you all the best...I agree with Alex... contact him.

Welcome to Vancouver!

on behalf of all who make a living from an address on a public street- thank you.

A million dollars a day... what could the Union Gospel Mission do with a million dollars a day?

Thank you George,

I contacted him yesterday and look forward to speaking with him.

Hi George:

Thank you for the link. It is always interesting to get the perspective of persons that live in the area and are working for and wanting change.

I see she hits the same walls as the rest of us when it comes to the supposed 'advocacy' groups.

I volunteered at a shelter in the DTES for roughly 2.5 years, working an average of 3 - 5 evenings a week. It was the frustration of holding the status quo that made me throw my hands up in the air and leave.

And it is sad, I met some really nice ladies, both working at the shelter and those that were 'participants'. I also attended too many memorial services in that short period of time for women that died from overdoses, disease or at the hands of others; saw too many women beat up; read too many 'bad date' reports; and viewed too many posters of missing women.

You would think after Pickton, the 'advocates' would have worked tirelessly to change the DTES and stop the overall carnage. But, years later, it is the same old, same old - and getting worse every day.

I find it mind boggling that we as a society have let this area deteriorate to the point we find it now.

It affects not just the businesses that are trying to survive in the area, but there are many elderly persons trying to live in the DTES as well. And, Chinatown, a gem in itself with decades upon decades of heritage, sits as the edge of this toilet bowl.

Turning a blind eye and cowtowing to the groups working in the area is not an option. We cannot allow Pivot, DERA, VANDU and Carnegie to continue bullying anyone that questions their actions. What they are doing is not working.

We need fresh eyes and a solid game plan and all levels of government on the same page. Police and the 'justice' system included.

That is the only way to stop the cancer spreading in the DTES and start restoring it the neighborhood it once was and can be again.

Well said Carlos, Max & others. Sometimes these discussions bring out not only very useful conclusions but, amazing, relevant life experience as well. Your arguments are persuasive. It's time to change course in the DTES.

This letter points to the real tragedy of the DTES. People who live in poverty (whether low income wage earners, on disability or retired and inadequate retirement income) and whose poverty dictates they live where accommodation is cheap, must. in addition to suffering the indignity of poverty, suffer the plight of the DTES drug addiction and poverty industry. That we as a society foist upon the poor, drug addition and the myriad of crimes that fuel the drug trade including street prostitution, assaults, theft etc. The poverty industry, including insite and the housing associations are the biggest whores on the block as they pedal empathy while they have a sure cash flow of welfare money. Make no mistake, these people are not altruists. They are hypocrites. This is a law enforcement issue and we should protect the legitimate residents of the DTES rather than coddle the criminals that infest the area.

Thank you Mr Herbst for your courage in making this letter public. It will be interesting to hear Vision's response. Please publish it.

And please know that most of Vancouver agrees with your concerns and supports the efforts of you and other merchants to change and improve our city.

Keep up the good work.

Thank you Victor. I most certainly will publish the remaining responses if they ever do respond.

They do seem to be taking their time don't they.

Hi Carlos:

You should have included Rich Coleman, Minister of Housing on your list.

I've contacted him once or twice on other matters and he typically responds.

He is also quite involved in what happens in the DTES.

You are not alone in your fight. The vast majority of Vancouverites want to see the DTES 'cleaned-up'.


Point taken Max. I assume that Gordon Campbell will CC him. The last time I wrote to the premier I received responses from both the premier and then solicitor John Les.

Downtown Eastside costs $1 million a day
Huge price tag leads to call for audit

By David Carrigg , Vancouver ProvinceFebruary 17, 2009

Philip Owen stands at 65 East Hastings Street in front of a soon-to-open, nine-storey social housing complex.

The former Vancouver mayor looks west to the intersection of Carrall Street and points to a just- opened social housing project.

There’s a charity-owned art gallery a few buildings down, more social housing across the road as well as two pharmacies and a church-run drop in centre.

A similar potpourri of housing and services is replicated in the blocks around him.

“Someone has to try and find the sort of money being spent here,” pleads Owen. “Nobody really knows the numbers. The services are funded from different groups and organizations, non-profits, churches and they go down and rent some space and open up and they’re looking after this or that or they respond to this or they’re part of some other organization down there. We need an audit.”

The Province took on the task of finding out what is being spent in the Downtown Eastside.

A Province investigation has found that in 2007 alone the three levels of government and others spent about $360 million providing housing and support for residents.

That’s nearly $1 million a day, with most of that for the roughly 5,000 disabled people in the community.

The spending continues unabated with no one in control of the purse-strings as conditions continue to deteriorate at street level.

“It’s just unknown how much has been spent,” says Dr. Julian Somers, director of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addictions.

“Even if we knew the value, the effectiveness of distributing the money is less than optimal due to administrative inefficiency. We know no one is co-ordinating it all.”

The 34-year-old psychologist’s primary focus is how to deal with mental illness and addiction on a large scale, leading him to research on the DTES.

That research includes a July 2008 report for the City of Vancouver titled Collaboration and Change: Evidence Related to Reforming Housing, Mental Health and Addiction Care in Vancouver.

Two key statements to come out of the B.C. report are that there is “no mechanism for co-ordinating the efforts and priorities of different funding sources” and that “the roles of different services are not clear and collaboration does not take place consistently. Each agency has its own linkages and some agencies compete with each other.”

Somers also unearthed a disturbing lack of co-ordinated financial information on the Downtown Eastside.

He says that on top of the direct costs of caring for the marginalized population, there are a number of costs borne by society that are “really costs of neglect.”

“We may be able to tally the cost of hospitalizations and corrections but we will always be unable to quantify things like the impact on tourism and trade. Our system is biased toward responding to crisis.”

Somers has been able to come up with general service figures — that there are “over 90 agencies in Vancouver providing mental health or addictions services, plus others providing broader health care and housing for high-risk people.”

Those services are provided by several provincial and federal ministries, Providence Health Care, Vancouver Coastal Health and numerous not-for-profit societies and foundations.

According to, there are 174 groups providing services of some sort in the community.

In Somers report for the city, he said there are more resources becoming available but “no enhancements to the processes that serve to integrate them.”

His theory is backed by a recent City of Vancouver report stating “existing service delivery models are not reaching this population” and supported by the Vancouver Police Department’s recent call for the creation of a Downtown Eastside director for the most vulnerable people.

There’s no shortage of community groups wanting to address the problem.

The Network of Inner City Community Services was established three years ago and is still going, at a cost of $690,000 a year.

More recently, a group called the Downtown Eastside Community Land Use Principles was formed — backed by groups such as the $720,000-a-year Pivot Legal Society and the $190,000-a-year Carnegie Community Centre Association — which aims to get groups working together.

There’s the recently-formed Streetohome Foundation channelling donor and government money into DTES housing projects.

In February 2008, the City of Vancouver launched its Collaboration for Change program also aimed at co-ordinating services.

Owen says none of these groups has attempted to determine costs of the Downtown Eastside and that an immediate audit is needed. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the $360-million annual bill for the neighbourhood simply isn’t good value for money.

“There’s nowhere near enough money targeted at solutions,” he said. “It’s far more cost-effective to be investing in housing and health care versus expensive emergency services. The situation won’t change much until we deal with the causes rather than crisis management of the symptoms.”

However, an audit of services by either the provincial or federal auditor-general isn’t necessary, said Robertson, because the majority of services receiving money are using it effectively.

“An audit is misleading,” he said. “The bigger question is value for money. Could $10 million spent on security in the Downtown Eastside be better spent on drug treatment? These are the types of questions we should be asking.”

Maureen Bader, B.C. president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said a review of the programs in the Downtown Eastside is in order.

“If that’s how much they’re spending there, then they’re wasting an awful lot of money,” she said.

“Someone should review what’s going on, put in place effective programs, and just quit throwing good money after bad.”

Without co-ordination, she said, it’s impossible to know whether the money is being spent effectively.

“A lot of times, government in all levels will just be overlapping a program into another without knowing how much is being spent and where,” she said.

“That’s a big cause of waste and it’s doing no good for the taxpayer and no good for the people who live down there.”

The Vancouver Agreement, a landmark alliance signed in 2000 that attempted to co-ordinate federal, provincial, and municipal efforts in the Downtown Eastside, has largely “fallen by the wayside” because of a lack of political will, said NDP MLA Jenny Kwan, one of the architects of the agreement, along with Owen and Liberal MP Hedy Fry.

“For lasting solutions, we need to co-ordinate our efforts to ensure we get the best value for our dollars,” said Kwan.

“Unfortunately, there is no follow-through.”

Current spending in the Downtown Eastside is being used inefficiently, she said, because it doesn’t address the root problems or offer long-term solutions.

“So many of the dollars invested in the Downtown Eastside are put in there to cope with the emergency, but are not targeted to deal with initiatives that will build our way out of the crisis.”

Prof. Dan Simunic, of UBC’s Sauder School of Business, said it’s up to the federal and provincial auditors-general to determine whether the government is getting value for money in the DTES.

Morris Sydor, B.C. assistant auditor-general, said his office has never audited spending in the Downtown Eastside. “There are a number of ministries involved,” he said. “It would be quite a chore to pull it all together.”

Carlos...great work on bringing this up as people have begun to accept this as if seeing people shooting up into their thighs in public is a normal thing. I, too, tried to get some response from politicians and only heard back from Jenny Kwan. Funny's word for word the same response. Guess she's got tin ears too. I'll post a part of it...but spare you the whole post (again).

Thank you for your e-mail last week.

I understand your frustration with some of the challenges that you are facing living in the Downtown Eastside.

Homelessness has more than doubled in the last eight years. The police report that 30 percent of all service calls citywide are associated with people who have mental health challenges.

When I was a Cabinet Minister in the late 90’s, I worked with then Mayor Phillip Owen on the four pillar approach which included prevention, enforcement, treatment and harm reduction. It was a far reaching and progressive plan that would have changed the situation on the ground in a substantive manner. Changes of government at various levels reduced the effectiveness of governments working better together under such initiatives as the Vancouver Agreement.

Blah, blah, blah, blame someone this person, email that person...sorry you're living should move...but vote for me if you're still there next election...let's crack down on public smoking but allow people to smoke crack in public...awesome.

All letters have now been received (along with some visits)

They can be viewed by following the appropriate links


As with most, you do not understand the drug culture of the DTES. Differing from Portugal, the drug of choice in the DTES is cocaine (not heroin as in Portugal). The very nature of cocaine makes it one of society's most insideous drugs. How does one go about legalizing cocaine? How do you write a prescription for it? How much do you give each user a day / week / etc.

Cocaine produces challenges to a society which heroin and other drugs do not, which is why Vancouver, with the handing our of millions of syringes led the developed world in HIV infections.

In the year 2000, mayor Philip Owen introduced his Four Pillars drug strategy aimed at widespread drug addiction in the Downtown Eastside. The results have been disastrous. Addiction has flourished.

Homelessness has doubled. Blessed with official sanction, the drug culture grows.

Owen left office in 2002, leaving behind a broken neighbourhood. Now a "harm reduction" celebrity, he travels the world attending drug policy conferences in the United States, Europe and Asia. And in 2008, he was named to the Order of Canada, ending any speculation about that institution's relationship with reality.

Meanwhile, back in the Downtown Eastside, a small band of true believers took Owen's cue and mobilized forces--in plain view of a pathetic media--to experiment on neighbourhood residents. In 2003, Insite, the supervised injection site at 139 East Hastings, opened for business. In 2005, at nearby 84 West Hastings, the NAOMI study staged North America's first government-sponsored heroin giveaway. Sometime soon at the same location, hundreds of addicts will receive up to three daily doses of high-grade pharmaceutical heroin as part of the four-year SALOME study.

But not everyone's on board.

"The best thing you can say about harm reduction advocates is that they are reductionists--they are reducing a complex human problem to a simple thing," said David Berner, the newly appointed executive director of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada, an abstinence-based organization (soon-to-be headquartered in Vancouver) founded by former Conservative MP Randy White. "We need to get money and human energy back into prevention, education and treatment."

Berner, a longtime broadcaster and writer, recently finished a book about the X-Kalay Foundation Society, a residential treatment centre for drug addicts and alcoholics he founded in 1967.

While the details are too varied for a single newspaper column, the philosophical difference between harm reduction and abstinence-based treatment is obvious. According to Berner, Insite organizers flirt with the surreal when boasting about "directing addicts" into treatment. "You cannot get involved with treatment with an addict who just shot up," said Berner. "You can't talk to someone who just shot up. So the claim they make, that they're getting people into treatment, is absurd."

But criticizing Insite can come with a price. In the high stakes world of harm reduction, where government grants provide vital lifeblood, reputations are brutally defended. Critics targeted and bullied.

Just ask Colin Mangham.

Last September, the Portland Hotel Society, co-operators of Insite, slapped a defamation and slander lawsuit on Mangham, a 60-year-old research scientist and addictions expert whose 2007 RCMP-funded report published in the Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice questioned the findings of Insite researchers. "Statements made about improving public order, saving lives and getting people into detox are misleading and based on data that just isn't there," said Mangham, during a recent phone interview from his home in Langley. (To read the report, google Mangham, Insite.)

Mangham, who owns a PhD in school and community health, spent his career compiling and analyzing health and addiction data, as a private contractor for governments and as a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax. His impressive resume apparently threatened Insite's holy trinity of researchers--Thomas Kerr, Julio Montaner and Evan Wood who are known worldwide as drug legalization advocates, a fact Mangham wishes more people recognized.

"Yet they claim that they're objective scientists only interested in the facts, and that I and the RCMP and the Harper government and anybody who criticizes them are ideologues. That's hypocrisy," said Mangham. "They are political activists."

Insite research is massaged, he adds, to prove predetermined outcomes. The familiar defense, that Insite studies are peer reviewed, means little to seasoned researchers like Mangham. "It's very common in research, in fact it's problematic in every field, especially in health and areas of human behaviour and addictions, that research is published that isn't very strong," he said. "That fact is usually mentioned during the second day of any statistics or methodology course."

The lawsuit remains in limbo, dependent on Insite's next move. It weighs heavy on Mangham and has perhaps irreparably damaged his professional reputation. "They have sought to affect my credibility and that has hurt me financially," said Mangham, whose wife is undergoing chemotherapy and is unable to work regularly. "We've built up a huge line of credit that essentially may be insurmountable. I've basically went a year without much income because of all this."

Ten years in, Vancouver's great harm reduction experiment keeps rolling along, leaving rows of victims in its wake. Addicts get sicker, critics assailed, while an entire neighbourhood rots from the inside out.

Wonder if this is what Philip Owen had in mind?

Wow, Carlos. After reading your first post, I'm almost speechless. Your ability to ignore the facts, bend the truth, and distort the evidence is nothing less than remarkable. You, sir, are a natural politician.

However, as a former addict, your lack of empathy is almost sociopathic in its absence. I am also a former addict (ten years drug-and-alcohol free today), but you and I could not be further apart. Unlike you, I truly do care about the DTES and the people who live there.

Now, allow me to offer a rebuttal:

First of all, Mayor Owen did not "leave behind a broken neighbourhood." The DTES was already broken and had been for many decades. The streets were considerably safer and cleaner when he left. Your right-wing rant is as laughable as it is misinformed.

Insite has been a huge boon to the neighbourhood, and every person who uses the site means one less dirty needle in the alley or one less death in a lonely hotel room. Further, whoever said that an addict cannot be reached after an injection has never been there. I personally know several people who have done their last shot and then checked into Onsite upstairs, which is the detox located in the same building. Harper wants to close the site to fit his religious moral dogma, but Onsite saves lives and reduces the spread of diseases such as hep C and HIV. This is not a hypothesis but a FACT.

While you are viciously opposed to harm reduction, you do not offer a solution other than to say that the DTES needs an "intervention" or that it needs to be "cleaned up." Why don't you have the guts to admit that you wish the police would arrest every addict in sight, drag them away, and bulldoze the neighbourhood to make room for more condos? Again, you disingenuous ability to express right-wing ideology without actually coming right out and saying it is very remarkable. Sadly, law enforcement has never worked in the past and will never work in the future. Gentrification may be able to "cure" the DTES, but law enforcement can't. It has never been more obvious that war cannot be waged on a global commodity, and the Americans have proved that in spades. Do we want to be like them? I certainly do not.

Also, you say that harm reduction groups are interested only in money, but isn't the police department always begging for money to deal with problems on the DTES? Like or not, solutions do not come easily or cheaply, but at least harm reduction is not a complete waste of money.

I wish I had time to pick apart everything else on your ridiculous post, but I have real work to do, and this thread will not ruin what is a very special day for me.

The idea that some posters on this thread consider you a hero is both amazing and disgusting. Clearly, none of you have any idea what it is really like on the DTES. Spend a Friday night with me at the First United Church and see for yourself that these are real people, not just addicts and junkies. Thanks for your time.

Chris Walter

Oops, I missed your comment about homelessness doubling.

Of course it doubled! Campbell slashed welfare rates and eliminated hundreds of SRO hotel rooms. What did they think would happen? And how could you possibly blame homelessness on harm reduction? Again, you astound me.

Check out!

Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement