Yaletown residents have mixed feelings about pressure to shut down overdose prevention site

“The people here are so understanding that they offer you juice and sandwiches the moment you walk in the door,” says resident Connor Dufresne.

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connor from vancouver dufresne cautiously swept the sidewalk in front of the Thomus Donaghy overdose prevention site on Saturday morning.

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“I was off fentanyl for three months but I relapsed yesterday,” he said. “It was my fault, I was upset because they kicked me out of my halfway house. I’m going to try again to clean myself.”

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For the 27-year-old homeless resident, returning to the Yaletown site, where Vancouver Coastal Health staff provide harm reduction supplies, including supervised drug use, testing and overdose medication, feels like going back. to home.

“The people here are very understanding, they offer you juice and sandwiches the moment you walk in the door,” dufresne saying.

“I am cleaning this area because I love it here. The last thing I want to do is have someone have reason to try to shut it down.”

But the developer of a nearby condo tower, Wall Financial Group, is trying to do just that.

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Bruno Wall has launched a lawsuit in the British Columbia Supreme Court, alleging that its current use contravenes a municipal zoning statute and has caused a series of problems for its nearby tenants at Seymour Residences.

“The use of the city site as OPS is not a use authorized by Ordinance No. 10996,” says Wall.

The owner is asking the court to rule on the board’s decision to lease 1101 Seymour Street to Coastal Health for the overdose prevention site. Wall argues that the council “fundamentally changed the character of what was otherwise a relatively quiet and predominantly residential street.”

Now, he says the southwest corner of Helmcken and Seymour streets is a “hotspot for crime and public disorder” since OPS opened in March 2021.

“There was an immediate increase in problems at the Seymour Residences, including incidents of people loitering or passing out along the block and in the driveway, people trying to access the courtyard and parking lot, and successful break-ins and attempts. theft,” Wall said in his affidavit filed with the petition.

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The petition includes hundreds of pages of photos of the alleged effects the site has had on the neighborhood. The images show people camped out in the middle of their belongings, injecting themselves outdoors, urinating on the sidewalk, as well as garbage in front of the building.

Since then, the city has responded to the concerns of area residents with enhanced measures to address sidewalk debris, bylaw violations, and public safety concerns.

Shaune Shypanski, who lives in a social housing building across the street, said she moves away from the block.

“It’s hard, as a recovering meth addict trying to kick the habit, when I walk through the site I get cravings.”

Dennis Pettigraw, another tenant at 540 Helmcken St., says he’s not sure where OPS is located.

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“It’s dangerous, I’ve been mugged and robbed here seven times,” the 70-year-old said. “But there is no doubt that this place saves lives. No one else will want it in their neighborhood.”

VCH’s lease to operate the OPS in space will expire in the spring of 2024.

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– With files from Susan Lazaruk

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