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Victoria homelessness issues


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#1 Mike K.

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 10:45 AM

Thank you liberal government policies, thank you. We have now entered the days of law-abiding citizens being second in line to notorious law-breaking citizens. For the latter are sick and should be cared for not punished by the man for their repetitive wrongdoings.


It’s time to take back our streets
Pack of hardcore drug users making Cormorant Street neighbourhood unlivable
BY STEWART JOHNSTON
This is a copy of a letter distributed by lawyer Stewart Johnston, who has a law office on Cormorant Street.

Today, I stepped in a turd. What made it all the more disgusting was that this was not a dog turd, but a big human turd. Going out the back door of my office, after shooing away the junkie rooting for bottles in my locked recycled-paper bin, I stepped in it.

As I cleaned this revolting mess off my shoe, wondering what exotic diseases it contained, I questioned my move to the Cormorant Street neighbourhood. I also thought of my conversation with my next-door neighbour who, as he picked up human feces and other trash deposited by the lawless band of junkies, asked, “For this I went to medical school?”

He and I looked around at the high barbed-wire fences sprouting up in our heritage-zoned neighbourhood and shared the thought that it would be sad to have to fence in our beautiful old brick houses.

My residential neighbour came by today to warn my staff to be cautious throwing out the garbage and shredded paper because she had seen the junkies poking something into the handles of the bins.

The junkies party on my back doorstep each night, chipping out the bricks, digging up the flowerbed, and depositing their needles. My neighbour phoned the police twice last night.

On her suggestion, I have removed the light bulb from my back door in hope that they will find a source of light elsewhere to aid in their search for veins.

There is a serious health issue here. Human feces and used syringes can be dangerous to those coming into contact with them. It is at least a hundred years since we stopped dumping our chamber pots in the streets.

Is Victoria reverting to this quaint old custom which led to gentlemen walking on the outside of the sidewalk to spare their ladies? Vancouver Island Health Authority is funding the needle exchange for valid health reasons. What about the effluent that flows from its users?

My truck has been vandalized twice in broad daylight while parked behind my office — once by the insertion of a hypodermic needle in the sidewall of the tire, ruining the tire. On phoning the police it was suggested I park elsewhere.

I complained about the needles and trash to city councillors, one of whom told me I was “not following the proper protocol for safe disposal of syringes.”

Why will the city officials do nothing about this? Why can my neighbours and I not have the protection of property, health and safety other citizens of this community take for granted?

Instead, the mayor and council say they are powerless, that it is a social problem, or that the senior governments should fund the solution.

Yes, the province and the feds have offloaded the problem and should fund the solution, but so should the city act on it. It is this same attitude that brings about penalties for the victims of graffiti instead of increased efforts to eliminate vandalism.

Our downtown is sadly demonstrating the decay that results from the abuses of a few outweighing the rights of the rest of us to live in a safe and healthy city. It is costing us tourists, conventioneers and shoppers.

I have publicly pointed this out as chairman of both Tourism Victoria and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. I have also advocated the need for treatment programs, facilities and shelters and I continue to do so.

The problem I am experiencing in the Cormorant Street neighbourhood is not with the homeless. I have gotten to know my homeless neighbours. I greet J. who lives in the alley and is trying to get his life back on track; I chat with D. who has HIV and lacks the energy to hold down a job just as I greet and visit with my neighbours on the street where I live.

They cause me no harm. I am saddened by their plight and heartened by their brave attitude.

The problem is the pack of 45 hardcore intravenous users who live in a homeless tribal culture, migrating from the blue bridge to the needle exchange and onward to my backyard to shoot up, defecate, vandalize my property and disturb my residential neighbours.

The police have reported about them to city council. Yet they are permitted to continue this behaviour, violating numerous laws including criminal laws.

If I were to carry on in this way I expect I would be arrested. If my dog were repeatedly to defecate on the doorstep of City Hall, action would be taken. Why, then, is nothing being done to stop the lawless activities of this tribe of urban nomads?

Why are my neighbours and I expected to clean up the disgusting droppings of this “social problem,” following “the proper protocol?”

Society needs to take responsibility for its problems and share the burden. I know that you would not put up with this on your doorstep. Neither will I. I am listening closely to the statements of our civic, provincial, and federal politicians. I am encouraging all my neighbours to appeal their property assessments on the basis of the degradation of property value from the lawlessness permitted by government.

In this way at least our high taxes might be lowered so we can afford cleanup, security, and yes, maybe barbed-wire fences. Come election time I will remember who said what. The hardcore tribe doesn’t vote. We do.

After all, that is the proper protocol.
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#2 G-Man

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 10:51 AM

I agree something needs to be done. Hopefully something that takes onto account both the plight of users and business owners.
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#3 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 11:22 AM

In today's T-C, this [url=http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/letters/story.html?id=2d9a199b-a3d2-4402-be19-55e8464871e6:f3b2d]letter to the editor[/url:f3b2d], responding to Stewart Johnston's Jan.25 commentary (posted by Derf, above):

Failed drug laws create street problem

Friday, January 26, 2007

Re: "It's time to take back our streets," Jan. 25.

While I sympathize with Stewart Johnston's feelings about the garbage and other "droppings" left at his door, I suggest that he consider why the people responsible appear to be addicted to illegal drugs, as opposed to alcohol or tobacco.

The disastrous policy of drug prohibition has resulted in innumerable negative consequences -- jammed courts and prisons, police corruption, spread of disease, lack of respect for the law, huge costs -- in addition to the problems he describes.

Alan Randell,
Victoria.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007


Warning: Rant/ opinion coming up: (And it's gonna tick some of you off, left & right, but I don't care about left & right anymore...)

I know a couple of people on this forum have argued in favour of legalizing hard-core drugs, and I used to harbour similar theories myself. But I really think it's a misguided strategy, and the above letter points out just how confused (and wrong) the thinking around legalization is. The writer actually suggests that a "disastrous policy of drug prohibition has resulted in ...lack of respect for the law," which is a fine illustration of muddle if ever there was one.

If he also is suggesting that addiction to illegal drugs is somehow worse than addiction to legal drugs like alcohol, simply because the illegality makes it worse, then he hasn't taken a close look at the destructive effects of hardcore alcohol addiction. There's plenty of misery to go around on both sides of the legal fence.

Drug abuse is bad, and drug abusers are making bad choices, whether they're legal or illegal choices. We've created a great deal of allure around booze. There's also a lot of "branding" interest in drugs -- "heroin chic" in fashion, the glamour of casual cocaine use among urban professionals, kids who take up smoking (irrespective of anti-smoking campaigns), etc. Collectively, we're just a pretty stupid life form often enough. A lot of that is never going to go away, and anyway, you can't make being terminally stupid illegal. But what about the smart people?, what about the smart (but devious) jerks who are out there just waiting to make a profit off anything that gets easier to make a profit from? If hard drugs were legalized tomorrow, it wouldn't remove that profit motive (currently monopolized by criminals) at all. It would allow another industry to flourish. And that industry (selling drugs legally) would need to grow its customer base, and presumably it would expand to younger consumers, too.

The libertarian mind-set that proposes legal drug use thinks it'll benefit smart people (amongst whom they count themselves). But there are many, many more stupid people out there than smarties. I don't relish the idea of hordes of stupid junkies, which is what we might get if heroin and other hard drugs were legally (and more easily) obtainable. Hordes of drunk suburbanites at bar closing time are bad enough...

As for every addict being a victim of bad circumstances, abusive childhoods, etc.: I just want to say that I find that sort of way of looking at social problems insulting and degrading to the many people who survived unthinkable horrors, without becoming horrible themselves. Did every beaten child become an abusive parent? Did every survivor of state torture become a torturer? Of course not, and it's an insult to the memory of every person who suffered, but managed to make the right choices, to look at our current social problems through the "s/he is a victim" lens.

The letter (above) could be read to claim that those addicted to illegal drugs are victims of the insanity of making drugs illegal, for example. Some -- those who want to quit -- are victims of the dearth of detox facilities and, where needed, supportive housing. But they're not victims of the law.
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#4 G-Man

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 11:50 AM

While I agree that there are certain obstacles to either side of this story. It is important perhaps to seperate decriminalization from legalization. As legalization as a term has a lot of politics behind it especially from the Pot lobby. However decriminalizing does open up treatment options that currently cannot be done. Things like the insite centre in Vancouver remain on thin legal ice due to the illegal nature of the drugs.

If perhaps the the government could legally control a supply for hard-core addicts there could be some way to treat people that want to get off rather than have people continuing to commit crimes to buy drugs on the streets.

Anyways just a thought. Straight legalization in my mind does not work.

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#5 m0nkyman

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 01:09 PM

The libertarian mind-set that proposes legal drug use thinks it'll benefit smart people (amongst whom they count themselves). But there are many, many more stupid people out there than smarties. I don't relish the idea of hordes of stupid junkies, which is what we might get if heroin and other hard drugs were legally (and more easily) obtainable. Hordes of drunk suburbanites at bar closing time are bad enough...

Nice straw man.

As a libertarian, I am absolutely aware that some very smart people make some very bad choices and end up hooked on junk, just like I am aware that very stupid people make bad lifestlyle choices and still manage to become the President of the USA.

What legalizing drugs does do is remove a large part of the risk that drives the high price of drugs. This removes a good chunk of the reason that people get adddicted in the first place... because heroin is much more profitable than marijunua. A junkie with a hundred dollar a day heroin habit isn't covering it with a part time job at McDonalds. They are commiting crimes. Bottom line is that criminalizing hard drugs is giving money to criminals.

Another benefit of legalizing drug usage is that it gets shifted from being a law enforcement issue into being a health care issue. It removes a barrier towards asking for help.

#6 Mike K.

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 01:33 PM

What legalizing drugs does do is remove a large part of the risk that drives the high price of drugs. This removes a good chunk of the reason that people get adddicted in the first place... because heroin is much more profitable than marijunua. A junkie with a hundred dollar a day heroin habit isn't covering it with a part time job at McDonalds. They are commiting crimes. Bottom line is that criminalizing hard drugs is giving money to criminals.


Marijuana is a multi-billion dollar a year industry in BC, btw.

But you're saying that people become addicted to heroin because it's more expensive than marijuana?

I don't follow your argument.

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#7 G-Man

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 01:37 PM

Yeah legalizing it will hurt the economy!

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#8 m0nkyman

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 02:28 PM

Marijuana is a multi-billion dollar a year industry in BC, btw.

But you're saying that people become addicted to heroin because it's more expensive than marijuana?

I don't follow your argument.

As a businessperson, your average dealer makes much more profit from a heroin addict than a marijuana user. That gives him/her a motivation to get their 'clients' hooked on heroin.

Clear?

#9 Mike K.

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 02:35 PM


Marijuana is a multi-billion dollar a year industry in BC, btw.

But you're saying that people become addicted to heroin because it's more expensive than marijuana?

I don't follow your argument.

As a businessperson, your average dealer makes much more profit from a heroin addict than a marijuana user. That gives him/her a motivation to get their 'clients' hooked on heroin.

Clear?



No.

There's absolutely no correlation between the cost of heroin and its consumption.

I'm willing to bet you that more people smoke marijuana in our society (at what, $5 a joint?) than touch or have ever touched heroin/crack or meth. Coincidentally, meth is one of the most widely used "hard" drugs on the streets and it costs $5 a hit. A daily addiction costs a fraction of the $1000 (three 000) it costs to support a heroin addiction.

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#10 m0nkyman

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 02:50 PM

No.

There's absolutely no correlation between the cost of heroin and its consumption.

I'm willing to bet you that more people smoke marijuana in our society (at what, $5 a joint?) than touch or have ever touched heroin/crack or meth. Coincidentally, meth is one of the most widely used "hard" drugs on the streets and it costs $5 a hit. A daily addiction costs a fraction of the $1000 (three 000) it costs to support a heroin addiction.


So, yer average Marywanna smokah has a joint or two at night. Total sales of about ten bucks, and a cost of about 5 bucks, for a profit of $5, with zero chance of permanent addiction. Meth addict probably does five to ten hits a day, for sales of between 25 and 50 bucks a day at a cost of what... 20 at the outside, for a profit of thirty bucks. You think that your average dealer isn't going to try and up-sell their customer?

#11 Holden West

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 02:55 PM

The recent police report said meth use is insignificant compared to heroin/cocaine.
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#12 Mike K.

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 03:29 PM

No.

There's absolutely no correlation between the cost of heroin and its consumption.

I'm willing to bet you that more people smoke marijuana in our society (at what, $5 a joint?) than touch or have ever touched heroin/crack or meth. Coincidentally, meth is one of the most widely used "hard" drugs on the streets and it costs $5 a hit. A daily addiction costs a fraction of the $1000 (three 000) it costs to support a heroin addiction.


So, yer average Marywanna smokah has a joint or two at night. Total sales of about ten bucks, and a cost of about 5 bucks, for a profit of $5, with zero chance of permanent addiction. Meth addict probably does five to ten hits a day, for sales of between 25 and 50 bucks a day at a cost of what... 20 at the outside, for a profit of thirty bucks. You think that your average dealer isn't going to try and up-sell their customer?


...yet somehow the BC bud trade is worth $7 billion per year.

Sorry, but I don't buy your suggestion that marijuana is an insignificant income source for the drug trade simply because its cheap. Neither do I buy your suggestion that all dealers aspire to addict their clients to heroin because it's not as cheap as bud.

The recent police report said meth use is insignificant compared to heroin/cocaine.


Well that's odd. I swear we were bombarded with headlines, endless headlines, in fact, that presented a grim picture of meth on our streets. Remember all those "meth" specials on A-Channel and all the media frenzy meth received between 2000 and 2006? The BC Government even went so far as to ban the sale of certain chemicals and they upped their fight on meth labs -- and Victoria cops say meth isn't an issue? So what was the fuss all about?

And everyone's seen Dog the Bounty Hunter (:lol: ) as he chases down "ice heads" in every episode. In fact, I don't think he's ever chased a druggie who wasn't an "ice head."

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#13 m0nkyman

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 05:43 PM

Derf, start reading what I wrote and respond to it, instead of whatever it is that you think I'm trying to say.

#14 Holden West

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 05:48 PM

This is from the recent police report:

"The drug of choice is injectable cocaine, followed by crack cocaine. There also appears to be a recurrent number of those who are using heroin. However, another current police perspective is that very few street/homeless persons identified themselves as using crystal Meth."

Admittedly not a scientific survey, but I trust the source.
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#15 ressen

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 05:53 PM

Build a hospital (read prison) where drugs are freely given to addicts as long as they stay on the premises. Crime would go down immediately and addicts would have the help they would need if they wished to quit doing drugs. Think of giving out the free drugs as punishment to the addicts for breaking the law, by doing drugs.

#16 VicHockeyFan

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 06:00 PM

Build a hospital (read prison) where drugs are freely given to addicts as long as they stay on the premises. Crime would go down immediately and addicts would have the help they would need if they wished to quit doing drugs. Think of giving out the free drugs as punishment to the addicts for breaking the law, by doing drugs.


Hmmm. This almost makes sense. :smt017

#17 aastra

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 07:32 PM

But if the guy chooses to leave the premises one day, he's no less the addict that he was when he was inside.

#18 ressen

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 07:42 PM

At least he wont have to go out and steal if he wants to get high as he will know where his next fix, meal, accommodation or entertainment can come from for free.

#19 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 11:28 AM

Interesting commentary/ editorial in today's T-C: [url=http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/comment/story.html?id=f70bae8f-8505-40d2-9f2e-d8864f03a50d:caed1]Our indifference to homelessness[/url:caed1], which contrasts Stewart Johnston's article with one published yesterday (a day after Johnston's), by Oliver Petersen. Peterson's article wasn't online (?I don't think it was), but I did read it in the paper yesterday. He's in jail, having violated a term of his previous sentence (using drugs again). He wrote that the government/ system spent thousands of dollars on him to get him clean, which it did, but then he was released and had nowhere to go, which meant he ended up hanging out with the same bad crowd again, making the same bad choices again. So now he's in jail and costing taxpayers -- I believe he quoted this figure: -- $300 per day. (If someone has an electronic version, maybe you could post it? Thanks!)

Supportive housing for people who can't stand on their own would be a cheaper solution for all of us. Peterson could easily be one of these people who keeps going in and out of the system, from treatment back to the street back to jail and so on. He has the potential to become a [url=http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/060213fa_fact:caed1]Million-Dollar Murray[/url:caed1], especially considering the medical costs he's likely to add to the social bill after enough years of this.

Anyways, here's the editorial from today's paper, commenting on the Johnston & Peterson articles:

Our indifference to homelessness
The addict and the angry property owner agree; we're failing on addiction and street problems

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The first article on Victoria's downtown street problems came from a lawyer and property owner fed up with the mess and danger caused by a band of hardcore addicts roaming the streets around his office.

The second piece, published the next day in the same space on the Comment page, came from a heroin addict, now serving time in Wilkinson Road jail.

It's easy to focus on the differences.

Stewart Johnston, the lawyer, is angry that "a lawless band of junkies" roams the Cormorant Street neighbourhood near his office, committing vandalism and petty thefts and leaving needles and waste in their wake.

Oliver Petersen, the addict, is sad and nearly broken by a system that fails to provide the most basic help for people who want to change their lives. It is foolish to pay for drug treatment -- as the government did for him -- and then drop people back onto the streets without housing or support, he argues. Too many will return to their old lives.

But in fact these two excellent contributions to the debate on homelessness and addiction problems found important common ground.

Both men agree absolutely that we are not doing enough and that much of what we are doing is ineffective and wasteful.

Both advocate more treatment and more support -- housing, counselling, life and work skills training -- to help people shake the poverty, addiction and mental illness that are at the root of the downtown problem.

And both argue the need is urgent and highlight governments' records of inaction.

None of those observations are new. We know what needs to be done to tackle the problems; we have so far simply lacked the will.

The articles were also a useful reminder that we can't talk about "the homeless problem."

Petersen wrote about people who need and want help, a significant portion of the some 700 homeless people living on the streets and in shelters.

Johnston's focus was on "the pack of 45 hard-core intravenous users who live in a homeless tribal culture, migrating from the blue bridge to the needle exchange and onward to my backyard to shoot up, defecate, vandalize my property and disturb my residential neighbours."

Dealing with those people will be more difficult and expensive than simply providing adequate housing allowances to welfare recipients.

Keeping the hardcore addicts off the street and out of trouble will mean housing with intensive security, support workers, counselling and perhaps prescribed drugs. And even then, things will go wrong.

But targeting the few dozen people creating the most serious problem will also produce the most dramatic benefit in protecting the livability and economic base of our downtown.

The most important message from both commentaries is that governments -- federal, provincial, municipal -- are failing.

Despite the talk of improved mental-health and addiction services and the need for affordable housing, despite the planning sessions and the task forces, the problems are getting worse.

That failure hurts people like Petersen, keeping them on the street. It hurts people like Johnston, who deal with the daily fallout.

And it hurts our community -- damaging the economy, driving up police and health-care costs and demonstrating our unwillingness to help people who need it.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007


I highlighted/ bolded that bit in the middle. It strikes me as key: lumping all "homelessness" together doesn't do anyone any good. It reminds me of what Geoff Young said in that Jan.17 article in the Victoria News, [url=http://vicnews.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=36&cat=23&id=812485&more=1:caed1]Police study highlights drug use downtown[/url:caed1] by Andrea Lavigne. When the police described how it costs $90 p/day to keep up a cocaine habit, which leads to "almost 100 per cent of that money ...[coming] from criminal activity," Young weighed in:

However, Coun. Geoff Young questioned why they were included in discussions about homelessness.

“To me, looking at this as a problem of homelessness, is missing the point,” he said, adding that drug treatment is a separate problem that requires a “distinct, and separate” solution.

Meanwhile, our green councillor wants to continue seeing it all through a large ball of wax that can't be teased apart and differentiated:

Councillors debated whether shelter beds or more long-term solutions such as affordable housing should be a priority.

“It’s time to stop contemplating either/or, what, how, what. And let’s say, ‘there’s 315 people that need help and we need shelter beds for them now...’ and we need to look at a really strategic vision of how we’re going to get housing in place,” Coun. Sonya Chandler said.

Again, why would you want to house poor people or folks who've been dealt a whammy by circumstance, but who don't have drug issues, together with those that do?
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#20 Holden West

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 12:33 PM

Again, why would you want to house poor people or folks who've been dealt a whammy by circumstance, but who don't have drug issues, together with those that do?


Because it's good for the economy--or at least those who make their living through drug pushing, car window replacing, insurance estimating, juvenile court lawyering, "community planning", funeral directing...
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