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Fire at the Washington Hotel in Vancouver

February 5, 2009

I’ve just heard that there is a fire at the Washington Hotel in Vancouver. This is a hotel run by the Portland Hotel Society, which provides living space for hard-to-house residents in the Downtown Eastside. Liz Evans of the Portland was kind enough to attend a dialogue on global drug policy that we had last year, where we talked about Vancouver as an innovator in finding ways to address addiction and homelessness issues (including through InSite, the city’s safe injection site). The work done by the people at the Portland is amazing, particularly because of their willingness to experiment and deviate from conventional approaches. To me it’s a great example of how Canada has the potential to provide a model to the world – especially given that innovation is one of our five key areas of potential leadership – and could do so more effectively if all the major actors (including government) supported the efforts of the Portland and others working in the Downtown Eastside.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2009 4:14 pm

    hey mara – the fire started from a cigarette being used in a room that was full of aerosol cans. as to what is being done to rebuild, i think at this point they’re not even sure if the building can be salvaged. this would mean about 100 more people on the street in vancouver, at a time when there is a big push to try to tackle the housing crisis in anticipation of the olympics. if there is a fundraising drive by the portland or any of the other organizations down there i will defo. put smthg here on the blog about it.

  2. marakardasnelson permalink*
    February 7, 2009 3:30 am

    I’m extremely sad to hear about this. How did the fire start? And what it being done to help rebuild after the damage? The Downtown Eastside’s housing and buildings are already so depressed from years of neglect and few little economic incentives or government interventions that the work of the Portland Hotel Society has truly been integral to providing housing to DTES residents. I used to work with a student group at the University of British Columbia who focused on HIV and AIDS in the DTES. One of the main issues that continually surfaced in discussing access to health care in the neighborhood was a lack of safe, clean and affordable housing. There are simply not enough rooms to house everyone in the DTES, and many people can’t afford anything above the notorious Single Room Occupancies (SROs), if that. Women are especially vulnerable in this situation, as they often rely on a sexual partner for housing, and thus are put at further risk of contracting the virus as well as domestic abuse.

    All of you in Vancouver–try to help the Portland Hotel Society out! And let us all know if they need any financial support from their friends around the world.

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