Council approves temporary parklet to support community managed alcohol program
This pilot project is, in a way, an example of unlikely allies working together over many months and through difficult conversations to arrive at a new way forward.
Theodora Lamb, Executive Director of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association
In order to provide a safe space for people at increased risk of harm due to COVID-19 restrictions, Vancouver City Council today approved the consumption of alcohol at temporary parklet at 111 Princess Ave.
The temporary parklet will allow for outdoor consumption of alcohol and extension of hours of the Drinker's Lounge, PHS Community Services Society's Community Managed Alcohol Program (CMAP). This program exists to bring a harm reduction approach to the consumption of non-beverage alcohol such as hand sanitizers and mouthwash, with participants benefiting from controlled access to alcohol, basic resources, cultural engagement, and access to healthcare.
"PHS is grateful for the opportunity to support a place for illicit drinkers to come together and socialize in a COVID-respectful way, and to engage and connect new CMAP members to healthcare and wraparound services", said Susan Alexman, PHS Director of Programs.
Funding and support
In addition to creating the parklet, which will be in place until at least July 31, the City will provide $75,000 in funding to support the activation and PHS's operation of the space. Vancouver Coastal Health has also confirmed the renewal of their core funding for the Community Managed Alcohol Program.
Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer of Vancouver Coastal Health said, "Providing safe, low-barrier spaces for people to consume alcohol in the Downtown Eastside will help those most at risk in this community to socialize and look out for each other's safety. Managed consumption sites also provide opportunities to link people to much needed support services, which is critical as part of our response to both public health crises - the overdose emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic."
Recommendation for the temporary parklet
The parklet proposal developed in response to concerns from residents and businesses in the area. Since the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions, the community had reported increased levels of street activity in the neighbourhood and that people who had been drinking were gathering on the street, leading to risks to both community members and drinkers, including the risk of injury from falling or being hit by traffic. A steering committee that included Strathcona Business Improvement Association, VCH, First Nations Health Authority, PHS, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users' Eastside Illicit Drinkers Group for Education (EIDGE) and DTES Neighbourhood House worked to develop the recommendation for the temporary parklet.
"This pilot project is, in a way, an example of unlikely allies working together over many months and through difficult conversations to arrive at a new way forward," said Theodora Lamb, Executive Director of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association. "Strathcona businesses have a stake in its success and the SBIA will continue to show up and work to support their needs in partnership with others."
City staff also are exploring sites to create additional washroom facilities as part of a comprehensive approach to issues raised by the community in Strathcona/Hastings Corridor.
The Princess Avenue parklet was proposed to Council due to the urgent need for a safe, accessible space for drinkers in the Downtown Eastside. Later this spring, City staff will report back to Council about last summer's public alcohol consumption in plazas pilot program and provide recommendations for 2021.