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Used needles, soiled mattresses: People living in Vancouver's Crosstown fed up with conditions

Last Updated Sep 11, 2018 at 7:04 pm PDT

Summary

False Creek Residents Association says discarded, used needles and feces and urine left in parks and on the street

Group says it has spoken to the city about conditions, and hears "we have no more resources"

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – People living in an area of north False Creek are fed up with what they call near-unlivable conditions that have been getting worse for years. A meeting is scheduled for tonight, as the group says it can no longer tolerate the unsafe situation.

Fern Jeffries with the False Creek Residents Association says violence is relatively common in and around Andy Livingstone Park.

“We’ve experienced an increase in not only the incidents of violence, but in the incidents of events which really threaten people’s health.”

That includes discarded, used needles and people leaving feces and urine in parks, and on the street.

“We have had a urine-soaked mattress sit in front of our park entrance for a few days. There are serious threats to health and safety,” she tells NEWS 1130.

She says garbage cans in the area are overflowing on a daily basis.

“I notice there are parts of Robson Street that have some new bins. I was recently in Toronto and they have an excellent bin system there. We have these rinky little garbage cans in our area that, after a couple hours of being emptied, they’re full again and overflowing onto the street. So, it’s not surprising that people treat this area as a garbage dump because that’s [how the] city leaves it.

Jeffries moved into the area in 2004. “It has been downhill since then.”

“In 2004, we looked around and said, ‘Things will get better after the Olympics’ or ‘Things will get better after Insite is operating.’ We keep looking for things to get better. Frankly, they are just deteriorating beyond what you would expect in a third world country.”

The group has spoken with police and the city about the issue. Jeffries tells us the response they keep hearing is “we have no more resources.”

“We are usually advised by city people to call 3-1-1. We’ve wasted a considerable [amount] of our lives on hold for 3-1-1. So, this current system of response just isn’t working.”

She notes the police response to emergencies is “excellent.” But she thinks it’s going to take different agencies from a municipal level, in addition to Vancouver Coastal Health, working with the association to improve the conditions.

“We would like to see on-the-ground results. We want to see better treatment options for people. We see many people on our streets — night and day — who are clearly suffering from severe mental illness.”

“We wonder what’s happened to our mental health treatment system… Where are the community supports to help them?” she asks.

Jeffries says the group’s call for help isn’t just for people living in the area, but also for those who are transient in the community.

The association wants the city to come up with new ideas to tackle the problem.

“In Vancouver, harm reduction has simply meant turning our streets into an open shooting gallery,” she argues. “We have not seen the prevention and treatment.”

She wants to know what B.C.’s new minister of mental health and addictions’ plan is.

Tonight’s meeting is for anyone with concerns but also ideas or suggestions. It takes place at 7 p.m. at Crosstown Elementary School.