By Tamara Loyer (with Jennifer Maiko Bradshaw)
My last days on the street at 49 years old was in my sleep-secure zone, on a park bench in Coal Harbour. It had a lovely view, with planes, cruise ships, cranes, and a nice, affluent neighbourhood.
One day, a bottle of beer was smashed against my head by a screaming drunk man. As I desperately tried to get out of my sleeping bag, the man kept kicking me. He broke my leg.
Out of the hospital, in a cast and crutches, I stooped around downtown alleys. I was vulnerable. Injured. Impaired, and alone.
This is not uncommon with older residents in the DTES. Solo. Alone.
I found refuge with Atira. I started with a great room in supportive housing. The Atira staff were nice and trans friendly. I recovered much over 12 years there—not just in health. Legally, mentally, socially, and personally.
I transitioned due to the great support.
Now, I’m independent. I work part-time with Atira and the Beyond The Street program while studying astrophysics.
In 2021, more than 2,200 died from the poisoned drug supply—a 26 percent increase from 2020. Our friends and family are dying every day—seven a day in November and December.
COVID, on top of everything else, has ravaged the DTES. These deaths are currently concentrated in the DTES—where the average resident dies decades earlier than in other census tracts in the Metro region.
It’s hard not to despair and fall back into depression. I feel stuck here, with no opportunity or options.
We need more options outside of the DTES. While supportive housing is far from perfect, it saves lives, lives like mine. This is why we should build the Arbutus and West 8th supportive housing. It’s not perfect, but it will save lives. The whole city has a responsibility to act to prevent these needless deaths.
The lack of social, supportive, and affordable housing throughout the city has limited the options of those struggling under poverty and oppression and concentrated misery.
There are also drug users living in this neighbourhood already. Providing them a safe, warm, supportive home will only help them heal. The Arbutus Street supportive housing will provide 129 homes for these people and help them get off the streets.
There is a lot of opposition to this project, and a lot of disinformation. Please have empathy. Housing insecurity can happen to anyone—you, your friends, your family. Please give us options and spaces to heal.
Please write in to support this desperately needed project, before comments close on Friday June 24th, with “Arbutus supportive housing” in the subject line.