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Victoria considers calling on B.C. government to provide safe drug supply
VICTORIA -- This Thursday, May 7, Victoria city council will be voting on a motion to ask that the provincial government make good on its promise to provide a safe supply of drugs for those who are homeless and who have been moved into hotels amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Advocacy groups are applauding the motion and one man in particular, who currently has access to a safe supply, says it’s changed his life for the better.
David Keeler started using heroin at the age of 13. He’s now 44-years-old and has been an addict for 31 years.
Today, he says he’s one of the lucky ones who has access to a safe supply of drugs.
“I’m on 200 millilitres of methadone and starting on this new safe drug supply,” said Keeler, an addict and outreach worker with SOLID outreach, in Victoria.
“I’ll take 12 of these little packages a day. It will carry me through all night.”
In those packages are Hydromorphone pills. They are an opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain, but also offers Keeler relief from heroin withdrawals.
Now that the provincial government has begun moving homeless campers from Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue into hotels, physical distancing during this pandemic has become a concern.
Some Victoria city councillors say that they want to make sure everyone is looked after and are staying safe.
“We know that when people use substances indoors alone, that’s an unsafe way to do it,” said coun. Jeremy Loveday.
“So, we need to make sure that when people transition indoors, they have the supports that they need.”
The B.C. Coroner Service has confirmed with CTV News that there have been four deaths in total between Pandora Avenue and Topaz Park since the COVID-19 pandemic first began. However, the service cannot confirm the cause of those deaths.
On Monday morning, there was another on Pandora Avenue.
Fred Cameron is with SOLID Outreach. His message is that no user should ever use alone, especially now.
“We’ve seen supplies go double, triple the strength of what was out two months ago,” said Cameron.
It’s a troubling scenario when bringing people indoors and asking them to stay away from each other. There are also concerns over asking people not to leave their rooms.
Keeler can vouch for the challenges of addiction. He fears that without a safe supply, addicts won’t stick around in hotels for long. Instead, he thinks they may venture out in search of an increasingly dangerous street supply.
“To know what that physical illness is like [is important],” said Keeler.
“You can say all day long, ‘It’s your own fault.’ I was the one who did it but I can’t get past that sickness. So, to be able to have access to these pills, it’s huge for people,” he said.
Victoria city council will vote on the motion on Thursday.