Heart of the City: Travis Lupick sheds light on the history of harm reduction in the Downtown Eastside

The author of Fighting for Space joined the Downtown Eastside festival via a video link from California

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      Former Georgia Straight staff writer Travis Lupick is one of the leading chroniclers of the city's harm-reduction movement.

      He not only did this through in his many articles, but also in Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City's Struggle With Addiction. 

      In this award-winning 2017 book, he paid particular attention to the efforts of Downtown Eastside residents to inject some common sense into public debates on this issue.

      Lupick recently spoke at the Heart of the City Festival via a video link from California, where he's now living.

      In his PowerPoint presentation, he explained how a nurse named Liz Evans answered a job ad to provide mental-health services to 10 tenants at the Rainbow Hotel at the corner of Hastings and Columbia streets.

      She started taking in more tenants, increasing the number to 70.

      According to Lupick, Evans told them that this was their home. This is where they live. And they wouldn't be evicted even if they overdosed or had mental-health issues.

      It was a revolutionary idea.

      "When she removed that stress, saying 'you live here now', people did pretty well," Lupick said.

      Evans was joined by Mark Townsend and they went on to form the Portland Hotel Society. 

      Lupick's book also focused a great deal of attention on harm-reduction champions Ann Livingston and Bud Osborne, who are also covered in the PowerPoint presentation.

      Check out Lupick's talk in the video below, as well as some fascinating photos from the past, starting at 3:30.