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Posts Tagged "DTES"

31Jul

Research program to help people in the DTES get jobs

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A new research program is looking at innovative approaches to support people with mental health and addictions issues in finding and keeping suitable jobs, with $364,235 in government funding.

“At its heart, this research project is about helping people find and keep meaningful employment by meeting them where they are and providing them with wraparound supports,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “We know that when people get jobs where they feel valued, it improves their quality of life, provides a sense of purpose and enhances self-esteem and social belonging.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association – Vancouver Fraser Branch, in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia, is conducting research to better understand the unique labour market issues of the Downtown Eastside and influence how care services are provided to at-risk people. The project concludes in February 2020.

The project team is examining individual placement and support (IPS) and peer support to increase access to employment. IPS has been extensively researched internationally and proven to be effective compared to standard employment services. This B.C.-based research will be groundbreaking, as it uses medical professionals as an entry point to service delivery. 

“Our vision is to embed social and health services in a one-stop integrated model of care for people living in the Downtown Eastside,” said Skye Barbic, lead scientist, University of British Columbia. “To date, little work has focused on the impact of employment as a health and social intervention. Our project aims to bring together systems that are traditionally difficult to navigate for people living in the Downtown Eastside.” 

“People with mental illness who choose to work deserve to have the support they need in order to be successful,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “When people are working, they feel connected. We all understand that meaningful employment is important to people’s lives.”

Doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and social workers at the Downtown Community Health Centre refer patients to the program, which is housed just across the street. Of the 72 participants, half will receive this approach and half will receive treatment in the form of traditional employment supports.

“To our knowledge, no study or project has examined individual placement and support embedded in primary care settings for complex populations and few have looked at the value of adding peer support to individual placement and support,” said Michael Anhorn, executive director, Canadian Mental Health Association – Vancouver Fraser Branch. “This project complements the redesign of downtown primary care services and is an expansion of the longstanding partnership between Vancouver Coastal Health and the Canadian Mental Health Association to provide individual placement and support services.”

Through IPS, participants receive supportive entry into the workforce based on their personal needs. Employers are also supported in navigating any challenges that arise. Wraparound services include housing support, help getting identification, filing taxes, support with social relationships, money management, financial planning, debt consolidation and mental health and substance-use support.

Quick Facts:

  • The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction is providing $364,235 through the Research and Innovation stream of the Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) program. CEP’s goal is to increase employment and work experience opportunities in communities throughout B.C.
  • Approximately $15 million will be invested in CEP projects around B.C. in 2019-20.

Learn More:

Learn how CEPs are helping local communities: www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/Community-and-Employer-Partnerships.aspx

Canadian Mental Health Association: https://cmha.ca/


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11Jun

City council expected to debate policy preventing legal weed sales in DTES

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The debate on a motion proposing easier access for opioid alternatives in the city’s Downtown Eastside is expected to begin again Wednesday, when Vancouver city council meets to discuss policy and strategic priorities.

Submitted by Coun. Rebecca Bligh in late May, the motion titled “Cannabis as an Alternative to Opiates and More Dangerous Drugs on the Downtown Eastside” proposes amending an almost four-year-old exclusion zone keeping medical marijuana from being sold to one of the city’s most vulnerable communities.

“What I’m asking is well-considered exceptions to that rule, and that city staff come back and make recommendations to council,” Bligh told CTV News Vancouver in an interview Tuesday.

Vancouver’s city council approved a restrictive licensing regulation for “medical-cannabis” dispensaries in the Downtown Eastside in 2015, prohibiting marijuana sales on any properties that do not have a property line on either Hastings or Main streets.

In her motion, Bligh suggests the idea behind this exclusion zone was to limit the amount of cannabis being sold to a significantly vulnerable subset of the population. This decision was made before the opioid crisis set in however, and since April 2016, the councillor says more than 3,600 people have died in B.C. due to overdose, including 1,000 people in Vancouver alone.

“I don’t propose this is the right time to simply dismiss the exclusionary zoning, even though studies show in North America exclusionary zoning … it’s just not the best way to go about city planning,” said Bligh.

The councillor cites a study by University of British Columbia cannabis science specialist Dr. M-J Milloy, which showed hard drug users respond better to marijuana than opioid substitution treatment plans.

“We’re hearing form frontline workers and they’re dealing day to day with what’s happening in the Downtown Eastside, and I’ve heard from countless people that this is absolutely something we need to be taking proactive action on,” she said.

As it stands, there are four locations in the DTES with approved Development Permits from the city. Bligh contends, however, that in order to move forward with the mandatory provincial licensing application phase, they would need to shut down with no guarantee they’d be able to re-open. 

The councillor says the city should acknowledge the research done and funded by UBC and Simon Fraser University to ensure policies aren’t restricting a “progressive program” that could help people in the Downtown Eastside.

Referring to Milloy’s research, Bligh says shutting down those shops in the Downtown Eastside would limit people’s ability to access affordable legal marijuana, which could result in them turning back to opioids.

She adds that before the legalization process took hold,  a medicinal cannabis shop was able to sell at prices between three and six dollars per gram, which she says is affordable for people on disability or social assistance programs.

“As the recreational use of cannabis and the licensing that goes with that comes into effect, so does management of the supply chain, and management of the margins,” said Bligh. “Now we’re looking at these shops opening up and their market value for cannabis is now $12-15 per gram, which is totally unaffordable for people on limited income.”

This could effectively rob DTES residents and drug users of access to retail cannabis for the foreseeable future, the councillor claims.

The motion argues that both the Vancouver Overdose Prevention Society and High Hopes Social Enterprise, a DTES support and sustainability organization, support low-cost, legal cannabis options backed by Dr. Evan Wood, the executive director of the BC Centre on Substance Use, as well as Dr. Mark Tyndall, Executive Medical Director for BC Centre for Disease Control, and Dr. M-J Milloy.

Bligh said she believes the city and Vancouver Coastal Health have an opportunity to good for a large group of people working together, however admitted it could be difficult for the health organization to endorse a motion that affects a smaller, yet high-need group of the population.

“Evidence is leaning towards this as a viable recommendaiton and option towards harm reduction, but this would be far too soon for Coastal Health to eb able to bless that, and we deeply respect the work they do,” the councillor said.


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23Sep

Barber fights to build compassion for DTES residents, 1 free haircut at a time

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Barber Alysha Osborne first decided to give free haircuts on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside after a troubling encounter with an acquaintance more than a year ago.

The two were getting out of a taxi when someone approached them and asked for spare change. The acquaintance laughed and told the person to get a job.

“It really pissed me off,” Osborne said, in the office upstairs from where she manages a downtown barber shop.

Osborne decided she wanted to do something to foster compassion for disadvantaged people living in Vancouver. She created 2 Paycheques Away, a non-profit that offers free haircuts and fundraises for Downtown Eastside residents.

“I want people to realize that it doesn’t take a lot to make a change,” she said. “Be humane to people, and compassion. It’s really not that hard.”

On Sunday afternoon, Osborne will be hosting a fundraiser and launch of her new book, which documents a year of giving free haircuts and shaves.

 

Osborne says her clients often seem brighter and more confident after getting one of her free haircuts. (Mihailo Subotic/2 Paycheques Away)

The organization operates out of a back room of a non-profit work clothing provider called Working Gear on Powell Street.

Along with the free haircuts, Osborne works with photographer Mihailo Subotic to get before and after shots of her clients — if they’re willing.

Osborne thought of before and after shots specifically because she wanted people to see how a simple change like a haircut can transform a person and how they’re perceived by others.

Of the roughly 200 free haircuts she’s given, Osborne says about 50 clients agreed to have their photo taken and sometimes share their story.

“Because of the purpose of the project,a lot of them gave me a lot of truth,” she said. “They want people to know how it goes.”

‘She cracks jokes’

Brad Bell, 57, first started getting haircuts from Osborne about a year ago.

Bell used to work as a fish culture technician, remediating river beds. But a congenital heart condition and bad arthritis means he now lives mostly off of disability cheques.

 

Brad Bell has been getting haircuts from Alysha Osborne for the past year. (Mihailo Subotic/2 Paycheques Away)

Bell went to Working Gear looking for rain gear — his had been stolen. While he was there, the volunteers at the shop told him there was a new barber working in the back giving free haircuts.

He and Osborne clicked. Since then, he’s been seeing her about every three months.

“She’s really sweet, funny — she cracks jokes,” Bell said. “She’s really nice, personable.”

Personal connection

Osborne says she knows from personal experience that most people on the Downtown Eastside don’t choose to end up there — her stepmother ran away from home as a teenager and ended up in the area as a sex worker and heroin addict by time she was 20.

“It’s really hard to know somebody and see that, but then see strangers and know that they’re going through the exact same thing,” she said.

 

Osborne also provides her clients with a free shave, if they want it. (Mihailo Subotic/2 Paycheques Away)

Osborne says she and Subotic had no idea what to expect when they first started their project. But in the past year, she has learned a lot from her clients — mostly about humanity and kindness.

“Everybody wanted to offer me something back, but these are people who have nothing,” she said.

Proceeds from Sunday’s fundraiser will go to Working Gear and the Downtown Eastside Women’s shelter. Proceeds from the book will also go towards supporting 2 Paycheques Away.

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