The first permanent opioid overdose prevention site outside of the Downtown Eastside could open near the southern end of the Granville Entertainment District and Yaletown.
During a public meeting on Tuesday, Vancouver City Council will consider a lease agreement for RainCity Housing and Support Society for a space within the social housing building at 1101 Seymour Street — located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Helmcken Street and Seymour Street, right across from Emery Barnes Park.
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City staff are recommending leasing a 580-sq-ft unit on the ground level in the building’s dedicated social service centre space.
The initial lease beginning on November 1, 2020 will be for a term of 17 months, plus a renewal option for two additional years.
Currently, the non-profit organization operates its overdose prevention services nearby at St. Paul’s Hospital, but it is looking for a more permanent, indoor location. Their services include drug testing, offering a place where a person can be safely monitored while using drugs and treated immediately if they overdose, providing harm reduction supplies and education, and giving referrals to health services and addiction services.
According to a city staff report, 1101 Seymour Street has been identified as a suitable location for the facility, as a mobile overdose prevention services unit has been operating near the building since this past summer. Both RainCity and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) believe “this is a suitable location to meet the demand for services in the Granville corridor and West End.”
— Safer Vancouver (@SaferVancouver) October 2, 2020
As a COVID-19 rapid response measure to address homelessness, over the summer, the provincial government acquired low-end hotel properties in the Granville Entertainment District and West End and quickly turned the buildings into supportive housing.
Moreover, the pandemic has led to a spike in both homelessness and opioid deaths, due to social isolation and an increase in the toxicity of the illegal drug supply.
“The people who use in the Granville area represent a different demographic than in the Downtown Eastside, where most overdose prevention services are currently located. VCH has identified the need for another overdose response service in this neighbourhood that will provide people who are addicted to illicit drugs with a safe and life-saving space to use and access to other social supports,” reads a city staff report.
“Working with VCH to create an additional overdose prevention site in the Granville area is therefore in alignment with the work of the Mayor’s Overdose Emergency Task Force and is a potentially effective initiative for preventing overdose deaths, increasing access to services, treatment and safe supply.”
The 15-storey building at 1101 Seymour Street, owned by the municipal government, was constructed in 2017 through a developer-funded community amenity contribution.
There are 81 units of social housing within the upper levels, while the first four levels are dedicated as social service centre space with four tenants, including Positive Living British Columbia, AIDS Vancouver, SWAN Vancouver serving sex workers, and Aunt Leah’s Place youth foster care.
If the lease agreement is approved, SWAN Vancouver will make way for RainCity by relocating from its current ground level unit to a larger unit on the third floor within the social service centre space.