How to address the harm of homelessness?

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Andrew Johns Podcast, April 28/23, one hour, ten minute in-depth interview. Highlights below.

How do we address the harm behind homelessness? Almost all of those homeless in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver moved there from somewhere else with untreated mental illness and addiction, says Dr. Somers.

They need treatment in their own communities, not warehousing with 100 other similar people in a failed housing model that offers zero mental health supports, but has a drug consumption site in the building. “You’re setting people up for lives of addiction and maybe PlayStation.”

Housing is not the solution by itself. You can’t treat one aspect in isolation of others. You have to prevent this migration process with dispersed, community-based care, he cautions.

Criticism of these British Columbia approaches that now include a drug decriminalization experiment is growing across many BC communities including Nanaimo, Prince George, Vernon, Penticton, Kamloops, Dawson Creek, Victoria, and Surrey. Saying “Enough is Enough”, citizens are concerned with increasing public safety issues, such as random attacks and property crime impacting their families or staff as well as those living on the streets.

For proven answers, BC must look to the successful Portugal drug policy (1999) that turned around their epidemic of high addiction rates and deaths. Central to that success was: “There’s no such thing as treatment without social reintegration.”

Portugal offered therapeutic communities that incorporated a variety of vocational training opportunities chosen as part of addiction recovery.  They did not need a single drug consumption site.  If you’re addressing the harm of homelessness…then you don’t need consumption sites.

They now have one of the lowest addiction and death rates in Europe as BC continues on its “wild west”, unproven approaches.

  • We cannot reduce problems of addiction by intervening in the drug supply. Making governments the drug dealers is not the solution, nor is that recommended by the global medical experts at the Stanford-Lancet Commission.
  • Analysis of drug deaths show multiple drugs in people’s systems. Was it fentanyl or cocaine or alcohol that caused these deaths of despair?
  • Tackling supply is useless. Focus on demand. What is causing people to take the drugs?

The difference in successful communities like Portugal’s is that they aren’t taking drugs. They have meaningful lives (connected to employment, family/friends, supports etc.)

Drug “traffickers must be laughing” at BC’s approach, says podcast host Andrew Johns. Dr. Somers responds: Police now have this plentiful drug supply in their face. And they can only just watch as  extremely dangerous drugs are now legal to traffic and possess!

Hear more on this compelling interview via podcast link below or watch the video. Send a message to your politicians to change their disastrous drug policy course here.

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