Bud Osborn passed away on May 6 after a struggling with pneumonia and a heart condition. The poet and activist was a beloved member of the Downtown Eastside.
On a long list of Osborn's accomplishments is the 2003 founding of Insite, North America's only sanctioned supervised injection facility, which is credited with saving hundreds, if not thousands of lives.
Working alongside Osborn in the early days of harm reduction in Vancouver was former Portland Hotel Society manager Liz Evans, among many others.
Evans recently shared memories of Osborn on Facebook, recalling a protest they organized in September 1997. At the time, many government officials were only just beginning to acknowledge the severity of a health crisis in the Downtown Eastside, where overdose deaths and the rapid spread of HIV were devastating the community.
"We built 1,000 crosses in my backyard, that we drove to Oppenheimer Park loaded up in the back of Tom’s jeep, and we asked Bud to write a poem," Evans wrote. "He read “1,000 Crosses in Oppenheimer Park” that day. It marked a turning point – a point when people began to ask questions about what was going on and a turning point at which people began to see that those images of people with needles in their arms were people who were suffering, alongside families who were suffering, alongside an entire community that was suffering."
The video above is of Osborn reading that poem again, less than four months ago, on January 31, 2014.
A public memorial is planned for May 16.