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Jim Green: The democratic solution

Globe and Mail Update

Nearly $1.5-billion in public spending since 2000 and little to show for it — that's the story of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The Globe is pleased to introduce four experts who will lay out fresh solutions for the neighbourhood. Each will join us online to take your questions and participate in a live panel discussion March 24 at the University of British Columbia.

The forum will be hosted at 7 p.m. (10 p.m. ET) at UBC's Robson Square campus by The Globe, in partnership with CTV and the university. For tickets, call toll-free 1-866-545-0016.

Jim Green is a former city councillor and co-founder of the Portland Hotel Society, founder of the Downtown Eastside's controversial safe injection site. Among his proposals is a women-and-children-first fix for the Downtown Eastside.

Mr. Green will answer your questions live Tues., March 3 at 1 p.m. PT (4 p.m. ET). Send a question now through our comment function, then check back here March 3 to see Mr. Green's responses.

Editor's Note: editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

Darren Yourk, editor, Thanks for joining us this afternoon Mr. Green. We've had a big response for this discussion, so let's get right to our reader questions.

Thomson Gary from Canada writes: Mr. Green uses the term 'democratizing' an awful lot. I'd like to know, in practical terms, what he means and how he supposes this will help the people of the Downtown Eastside.

Jim Green: By democratization, I mean a system of governance that is powered by the people of the Downtown Eastside. Historically, decisions relating to the lives of Downtown Eastsiders have been made by Federal, Provincial and Municipal Governments, planners, and church groups, whereas the people that are affected by these decisions or policies that are created, have no voice. This is one of the main reasons that funding to improve the community often is inappropriate or wasteful. The people who are considered the target population are the ones who know the most about the situations and have the best ways of determining their exit strategy from poverty and other conditions that keep them in a state of dependency.

Helen McKenzie from Thunder Bay writes: How likely is it that any social programs aimed at the DTES will receive funding from the present federal Conservative government?

Jim Green: It is very unlikely, and this a real problem, since conservative policies continue to play havoc with the Downtown Eastside. The Federal Liberals began the dismantling of social housing programs, and they were completely put to death by Brian Mulroney's Conservative Party. On the Provincial level, it was primarily Conservative governments that eliminated provincial support for housing programs. You may know, Helene, that we have a safe injection site in Vancouver — the only one in North America — which the Federal Conservatives are threatening to kill off, even though we know that the safe injection site has saved numerous lives, and led many, many people to the treatment and support that they need. It is ironic that we have the only safe injection site, and historically, the US Drug Czar has tried to get it closed down. Thanks to President Obama, it looks like there may be a change in Order. President Obama has nominated the Chief of Police of Seattle, Washington, as the new Drug Czar, and e is a supporter of safe injection sites, and legalizing marijuana. The American Republicans may be able to stop his appointment — let's hope not because this is a new day.

Russell Mawby from Canada writes: Jim, I'd like you to comment on the 'neighbourhood czar' approach proposed in this series. My comment is that, in theory, this is a good approach because for once it might bring a broader systems approach to the issue, given that one way of understanding homelessness is as a systems failure. Many of the people who drift through the East Side have literally fallen between the cracks of systems that continue a) treat symptoms rather than causes and b) tackle problems in silos - 'mental health', 'crime', 'housing', etc. If in fact one person, or at least their office, can start to join up the solutions, what do you think are the key factors needed to make that approach a success?

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Return to Canada’s Slum:The Fix

Speak your mind

With the 2010 Olympics coming to Vancouver, the eyes of the world will be on the city's Downtown Eastside. The millions poured into the neighbourhood seem to have had little impact on its squalor, its people or their problems with addiction. What should be done? Where would you start? How would you fix Canada's slum?


Public Forum:

On March 24 at 7 p.m. PT, The Globe, in partnership with CTV and the University of British Columbia, will bring together experts with fresh solutions for the Downtown Eastside at a public forum at UBC’s Robson Square campus.


For tickets, call toll-free 1-866-545-0016.
Update (March 6, 2009): Tickets are now SOLD OUT


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