Tag Archives: DTES

Downtown Eastside

historically trained

i’ve been thinking about the ways we take care of our past. and the ways we don’t. and how it gets written over and over.  and sometimes people are more concerned with taking care of the past than they are about casually discarding human lives in the present day.

as you may know, i have historical training.

so while trying to avoid some task, i came across a lost folder – an archive. the fact that this document exists is a testament to qualities not conventional among public officials –to understand that our lives are an ongoing argument to mean in the world, which as i understand it, is to become what we are seeking, rather than demand it of others, and refuse to situate ourselves as endlessly lacking, rejecting the power we inherently have. or, in Tracey’s words, “don’t ask if you’d never give.” i’ve tried to follow through with a bit of the stuff she was working on. and in doing so have learned a lot about government. much of which, as any reasonable person, i didn’t want to know. but holy shit people, am i glad i did.

and if it’s not clear, i do consider the obscenely exploitative and stipended poverty-dependent local activist culture a primary cause of tracey’s death. exploitation and enforcement is a good deal at 10$/hr in this housing market when people are this poor. i’ve done as much as i can at this time to point out these contradictions and hypocrises, and seriously people, this is your fight.

we talked a lot about what the downtown eastside means, and all that had to be figured out. she loved it and she was rooted here but was of more than this place, through relations and connections and networks locally unperceived.

i am not sure if this was posted publicly when i was at vandu, or by the city at the time. it would take me 4-8 hours to prove, one way or the other conclusively, and nobody is paying me right now to do that or even anything i am actually good at or might possibly even enjoy.

on the editorial history i am a little unclear. in any case, this is the city’s proclamation of Tracey Morrison Day, July 21, 2017.

PROC - Tracey Morrison Day - July 21 2017-1 - Edited

for this and much else, thanks Andrea Reimer

when his friend c.s. lewis died, tolkien was shaken. he wrote that he was  “like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.” and he was over 60 then — he was an orphan at twelve, he was in the mud of the “great war” and on his return all his close friends were dead — and as his authentic self, a tree, experiences lewis’ thoroughly natural death as a near-sunderinng from the earth itself 

i first read that last winter.  it stops my heart, and i don’t have a sense of rootedness. or a family. i said in 2014 that the neighbourhood was the closest thing i know to what people meant by “home.” that tentative sense has been gone for about 15 months. it seems to me that most people in the DTES who have been affected by (ie. seen up close) the realities of the “overdose crisis” in this place, have been changed profoundly. to claim otherwise is to embrace denial and a perverse stoicism. or people keep themselves busy – anything as long as there’s never a moment to think – or get really involved with researching the derangement of their senses, or become so involved they can believe themselves indispensible to the situation, invincible, and later indifferent, while the bodies pile up.

i reject that completely. the DTES was predisposed to react in these ways. in fact we were all already traumatized and damaged before this all happened.

i need a bit of time to think. so i’ll take this.

i presume she’d laugh at some of the absurd situations i have found myself in; others she’d enjoy for rather different reasons. but there was an election, the meter has clicked over, i did what i could. wondering what she’d make of all this.

Some people, even elders say, this is sick land, meaning it’s bad land, right. And well, it could be, but you know, how sick could it be when this is where I found compassion, friendship, family, love, hope, faith in people – this is where I found it.

i remember this conversation, her speaking with an elder. we continued walking down the street to deal with some messed up shit that was happening. we talked about that conversation later, though. “maybe its too sick right now,” she said then, and added quietly, “we have to heal ourselves first.”

there’s clearly no interest among the surviving powers in the neighbourhood to do anything different, acknowledge some collective wrong, and rethink the way all our interactions are about power. and i don’t share Tracey’s faith, especially faith in people, not after all this. so i’m not not interested in continuing in this manner, in maintaining these ways of living, or working , or being, in this place.

“that’s just how it is down here,” i hear all the time. “that’s how people are,” i heard often (when i talked to people more). such beliefs condemn even the possibility of positive change as naive – this reflex condemnation is another reason why we are in this mess. so, much thanks, therefore, for showing me (or reminding me?) that these beliefs are both bullshit and chickenshit at the same time. and that there are others. and nothing needs to be this way, down here or anywhere else. there’s nothing natural or acceptable about this disaster. 

on Hastings, it’s just more rain

to quote gord downie, i had a job before this. like – everyone – some of my interests and skills are not about despair. but even i find myself difficult to be around, and i’m concerned that i’m going to start hating the neighbourhood (as so many of its self-appointed ‘leaders’ do, which explains a lot). so if i’m ever going to be any help to anyone around here, i need a few steps back from this. and it’s a little silly to be this frustrated both that i can’t do exactly what i want and that i quit too many jobs.

i need to get back to my other work, and see if i can find it. and i need a break. seriously, at least 6 or 8 months. away from vancouver entirely. i have some writing to do. i haven’t been out of town for years. i have zero 100% reliable income other than disability, no resources, nowhere to be. things to do; i’m restless. bored. time to go. ideas welcome. accepted but help would help more (particularly the non-financial) but as i have no money, small donations would be helpful too 

harm reduction politics

i’ve had to make this point several times in the last few years when speaking to council. 

it would be great if nobody has to do this in the future. i’d like that. if i don’t have to point this out, that would indicate to me that we’ve made a significant change
#vanpoli #vanelxn18

if we refused to wait until the obituary before acknowledging that people have inherent dignity, worth, humanity, all that

if the motivating impulse is resentment, the consequences can never be productive. it seems to me that this is a big reason why the #DTES is so utterly messed up. an endless spiral of resentment & blame & regret, such fierce desire for a past that never was

we’re at a point in our history where people regularly attribute homelessness, poverty, illness, death, climate change, the cost of milk, the canucks lost again, gentrification, to an ever-present and all-powerful 𝗧𝗵𝗲𝗺, or
blame - Edited

i have it on pretty solid authority PLUS i read it in a book AND i heard from that guy at the park that when people are elected to civic office they do not in fact become ℳagic. i think that is the opposite of democratic representation actually, just as blaming Them

[sorry there was an alarming sound in the hall and somehow when i got back, the internet went out. i think it’s time to move]

blaming Them, incomprehensible Them, is to deny your own power in this world, it is saying this isn’t your history and the future can’t be yours too

or as it’s constantly said in the downtown eastside, “That’s just how it is down here”

but i have to say that i have seen people who’ve been invisibled claim their right to change the world and trust me when you feel it there’s no need to shout
or Demand


[you notice how drug users habitually mumble, talk into their chest, sentences trailing to silence? they have lots to say, they’re just used to not being listened to]

but a few hours before the polls open – after over 20 years of drug users negotiating some access to elected representatives which has resulted in Insite & a entire neighbourhood embedded (+/-) with #harmReduction services. and Ideas

but in the spring of 2016 those ideas, those ideas were frozen in time. the world had changed the neighbourhood felt – it was a siege a constant and escalating crisis

today is Day 920 of a public health emergency #bcpoli

eight months passed after that emergency was declared before the province sanctioned Overdose Prevention sites. hundreds of people were dead. that fall it rained and rained. @sarahblyth opened a tent in the alley so when you went down there were people thereto bring you back

that first breath when they suck back the air like it’s the first time thats the most amazing sound i’ll never be tired of that sound but i have to tell you i need to tell someone i’m so tired

tracey and i were going to city meetings, the mental health & addictions task force, catching shit for it too. there was the big tent day when 300 people had narcan training, which was paid for somehow from the .5% “fentanyl tax” – that was december 2016 and as i recall, not popular

yeah, i got the date right. dec 13, the following week. the radical militant take: the Evil City Used You All! when i asked them to explain, i asked, “how did they use us to have a public event (which we suggested) to do what we wanted, on our terms, to get the $ that you keep Demanding, that you say will help? please explain this to me.” nobody did. BUT i guess i suck at politics

Screenshot 2018-10-23 at 5.13.39 AM.png

Vancouver approves 0.5% property tax hike to fight overdose crisis | CBC News
The tax increase will mean an extra $4 for condo owners, $11 for single family homeowners and $19 for the average commercial property.

something shifted. @sarahblyth hadn’t given up and she was tweeting constantly and probably calling the ministry of health often. lots of people were on it, but she turned this into civil disobedience,

Screenshot 2018-10-20 at 3.13.58 PM

that is,
Saving Users’ Lives is a Political Act Because Our Humanity is Worth Personal Sacrifice and Risk

Please Acknowledge the Humanness We Have in Common While I Am Alive

i just realized that earlier the same fall i organized a show at gachet (last one, turns out). i had the one thing in it, Fortress of Solitude

04_ct - Edited.jpg
that .5% was spent – in not the most helpful ways, i thought. the language was “mitigate the damage” — ie assume the damage as a fact. and more people died. rage and powerlessness is a terrible combination.

sometime early february? sounds about right

i started noticing a terrible thing happening.
at first it was a look. an expression of surprise.

people started giving each other up for dead
and giving themselves to

the pursuit of oblivion
then it all got worse
(it got worse from running into someone you hadn’t seen in two weeks and one person would say “oh i figured you had died” from that it got worse)

vancouver was the north american urban centre best equipped for this it is a true fact that is a true fact you can trust me, i have historical training

and look

look what happened

is there anything we can do? anything? it was july 26 2017. karen what can we do?

said the mayor to the crackhead

right now today, #SafeSupply. all substances. multiple points of access. and by #Decriminalize – i don’t mean the thing, the “drug”

we can decriminalize people.

this does require a shift in thinking.
and is analogous to the aids crisis. the shift came when ‘victims’ became people.

the crisis is not the drug. the crisis is a social need to sacrifice individuals who exhibit the consequences of social cruelty.

but there is no Them
and there’s no cavalry and no magic and also no mystery 

how please tell me how does it help to blame Them?

stop angrily demanding what They can’t give
learn from sarah; build new structures – break with the past
look, the thing is everybody uses drugs


and this seems the time to say what seems obvious —
harm is reduced the moment a user comes out.

Gᴇɴᴛʟᴇɴᴇss ɪs ɴᴏᴛ ᴡᴇᴀᴋɴᴇss.
Aʀʀᴏɢᴀɴᴄᴇ ɪs ɴᴏᴛ sᴛʀᴇɴɢᴛʜ.
Jᴜsᴛɪᴄᴇ ɪs ʟᴏᴠᴇ.                          *

if we choose to become visible we might see each other clearly

acknowledge each other. and the harm. and listen close

there’s no They

it’s Just Us

COPE, with harm reduction

two days out, final reviews of parties on overdose-related and other drug policy issues. didn’t want to have to do this. I haven’t heard or read anything to indicate a serious understanding of this issue from COPE: The Coalition of Progressive Electors. Others have asked for thoughts, reached out, asked questions, developed solid ideas. this platform has less than what the city is doing now. in Factual Reality. it’s less than what Gregor has done. that is a fact. it’s clear they have no idea what has been done, and what is being done now.

i have tried to convey these concerns privately. but critique, disagreement, whatever, is always taken as an *attack*. I worked with Jean for years, and Wendy Pedersen same. this document tells me that you have not taken any time to understand this issue seriously. you don’t know the facts. your statistics are incorrect. and they aren’t “just numbers.” there is zero meaningful engagement with the complexity of this massacre.


their platform is heavy on traditional COPE specials like “stuff that is already happening” and “stuff that the city doesn’t have the authority to do” and empty symbolism

the fact that you clearly haven’t read a word I’ve written or paid any attention to anything i’ve done for the last 16 months or whatever stings a bit. but the fact that you present this naive, ideologically-driven (yeah, science, fact, evidence, and experience are much better) retrograde policy to the public, and our city, our neighbours (the ones who aren’t dead) (yet) does not trouble me. it angers me.

I have waited as long as possible. but I won’t sit here and let this go silently (because “the cause”). there’s nothing left or progressive about this. more people will die. I don’t give a shit what you think your ideology says about that.

sure it hurts. but if Jean Swanson & others are elected saturday, others will be hurt more.