Vancouver – More coordination, oversight and accountability is needed to improve the health and safety crisis in the Downtown Eastside, says Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer, who today released preliminary findings of a 14-month audit on social spending in the troubled neighbourhood.
“It’s clear that the system needs to be fixed,” says Chief Palmer. “Despite more talk than ever, and more money than ever, life is now bleaker than ever for a growing number of people in places like the Downtown Eastside.”
“Despite all the money being spent, our communities need more help.”
Chief Palmer’s comments came as Vancouver Police released preliminary findings of a study conducted by HelpSeeker Technologies, was leaked to the media. Helpseeker is an Alberta-based social innovation and technology company that examined how Vancouver’s social safety net is funded by looking at social supports that exist to improve social well-being and safety in our communities. Findings are included in VPD’s draft report Vancouver’s Social Safety Net: Rebuilding the Broken, and Helpseeker’s report, Igniting Transformational Systems Change Through Policing.
- $5 billion a year is directed toward Vancouver’s social safety net. That’s equivalent to $14 million a day, or $7,200 for each Vancouver resident
- Nearly $1.5 billion is directed toward registered charities and non-profit associations with a direct mandate to support social issues, such as homelessness and poverty.
- Approximately $1 million a day going spent directly on community and social issues in the Downtown Eastside.
Despite the billions being spent, many would suggest that the health and safety crisis is worsening.
- Last year alone, there were 527 overdose deaths in Vancouver – up 115 per cent from two years prior. With 58 overdose deaths for every 100,000 people, Vancouver had more overdose deaths per capita than Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles.
- A resident in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is now 32.3 per cent more likely to live with depression, and seven times more likely to live with schizophrenia or another delusional disorder.
- There remains comparatively inadequate funding for addiction recovery programs, offender rehabilitation services, and proactive programs to help victims of crime.
Vancouver Police have already shared the preliminary report with dozens of community partners and stakeholder groups, and continues to seek input on the findings. VPD is also recommending establishment of a steering committee made up of community partners and various levels of government, and creation of a centralized entity to oversee and coordinate services in the Downtown Eastside. We have seen where better coordination leads to success, with such organizations like Vancouver Coastal Health and Canadian Mental Health Association; we have also listened to the experts who suggest where we will see the most improvements when we fund programs that are known to work (e.g. addiction, mental health, youth, Indigenous).
“While today marks the start of an important public conversation – one I hope finally brings meaningful change – I also know there is a long road ahead and we all need to do better. Our vulnerable communities deserve it and the public expects it,” adds Chief Palmer.
“Public safety is our number one priority, and we are committed to seeing this work through to the end, and working with the community to address issues that impact the health and safety of everyone who lives in Vancouver, works here, and comes to visit.”