The Issues 

Public health and safety involves ensuring that there are the resources necessary to support people's health and that safeguards them from crimes, disasters, and other potential dangers and threats. Police and fire departments, public health regulations and planning for catastrophes are all within the City’s mandate. However, most of the resources for social services are the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments. People experiencing homelessness, addiction and mental health issues are generally not getting their complex needs met and often are in need of emergency services.

TEAM Perspective and Action Plan

TEAM recognizes that public health and safety is a concern of all residents and businesses and that our problems are not limited to the high concentration of difficulties in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) that has become completely out of control. Residents are generally feeling less safe than ever, and those residents without permanent homes are not safe at all. TEAM will develop both short and long-term solutions to make all residents and visitors safer in city streets and parks, and in their homes. 

Action Items:
  1. Consult with neighbourhoods to find out their greatest concerns in order to inform policy;

  2. Establish a single coordinating body to ensure that the complex needs of people experiencing homelessness, addiction, and mental health issues are effectively addressed with long-term, holistic solutions rather than through emergency services;

  3. Work with provincial and federal governments and agencies to ensure they provide more required resources for the social safety net to support the vulnerable. Measure needs, measure resources, and publicize gaps. This includes the following:
    • full implementation of the Four Pillars of treatment on demand, harm reduction, prevention, and enforcement;
    • proper safe housing for the homeless based on the needs of each individual, not people warehousing;
    • access, support and training to provide addiction and mental health care;
    • addressing the overdose crisis and the need for a safe drug supply;
    • expansion of the Car 87 program, an innovative partnership between the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) and Vancouver Coastal Health, details to be determined upon a needs assessment and related provincial funding from Coastal Health;
    • coordination of agencies for optimum effectiveness;
    • facilitating, with other levels of government, job/vocational training as appropriate;
    • coordinating with community agencies to help homeless and disadvantaged persons find connection within a community;

  4. Create a full-time Downtown Eastside (DTES) commissioner with a mandate to address the out-of-control social issues that are impacting the health and safety of the community, and ensure that needed resources are provided and properly distributed to those who need them, including the following:
    • performing a detailed audit to determine the needs of the community, including those who are homeless, how much funding is being provided and to who those resources are going;
    • setting measurable objectives, short and long-term, to coordinate the various agencies being publicly funded in the DTES;
    • identifying existing publicly funded programs which are inefficient, duplicated, or simply aren't working effectively;
    • working in coordination with the Provincial and Federal Governments, along with the First Nations Health Authority, to identify treatment programs which have proven to be successful in other countries (such as the Portuguese model) and can be implemented here;

  5. Review the adequacy of police, fire, and other emergency services to meet current and future needs from increasing density and population, with new resources as required;

  6. Implement district policing and increase support for community policing initiatives (such as Block Watch, coordination with school programs, youth at risk, anti-gang supports, etc.);

  7. Enforce by-laws that have been ignored;

  8. Improve safety and sanitation with more public washrooms, frequent collection of syringes on streets and playgrounds; improve cleaning of public spaces, addressing repeat petty crime that has compounded;

  9. Engage immediately when and where wildlife threatens/attacks residents; implement a city-wide program to reduce the rat population;

  10. Improve disaster/emergency resilience by being proactive in engaging neighbourhoods with required resources. Plan for disaster/climate event preparation throughout the city and ensure it is part of planning initiatives. For example, plan for extreme heat events and ensure that the most vulnerable such as low-income seniors and people in SROs have air conditioning and/or cooling facilities;

  11. Provide additional mental health support for emergency responders; 

  12. Provide support for police and emergency responders' recruiting and cultural awareness training; and

  13. Enhance food security and promote community development by encouraging local gardening on private or public property and neighbourhood farmers' markets to exchange produce.

Related policies: Affordable Housing & Homelessness, Planning & Development, Community Representation