Substance use is often thought to be the main factor leading to homelessness. The reality however is far more complex. Although substance use can be one of the causes, it is often not the only key factor in someone’s path to homelessness.
According to the Metro Vancouver Homeless Count published in 2017, multiple factors have attributed to the homeless crisis across Metro Vancouver. A breakdown of barriers to the left has been taken from the annual report to highlight the intersectionalities of challenges presented to the homeless population. Given Vancouver’s current housing crisis, the listed barriers to housing primarily surround affordability and availability– not substance use.
Unfortunately, those who do over-use substances and are capable of finding housing, often find themselves refused. More awareness is needed to breakdown stigmas surrounding homelessness.
For more information on the opioid crisis please read the 2017 BC Coroners Service Report.
Modelling Healthy Lifestyles
At Lookout, addictions are viewed as a health condition and individuals are not expected to abstain from alcohol/drugs or from other street activities while living onsite. We open doors of opportunity by modelling healthy lifestyle choices. This involves placing as few expectations as possible on people who staying with us, without compromising the safety of others. By having few barriers, individuals are able to access more services. It also gives non-judgemental support to individuals who are already marginalized, enabling Lookout staff to assist the individual to identify and plan their own goals.
Lookout provides choice in client defined recovery by operating three abstinence based housing projects – MacMillan House, Dovercourt and Crawford Manor. Lookout is very open to new and innovative ways to better provide additional services to clients.
Another innovative program was the Managed Alcohol Programs (MAP) which was piloted successfully at multiple locations. Clients in the MAP programs showed a dramatic improvement in physical and mental health as noted by Lookout staff and their primary physicians.
Lookout’s peer programs and staff with lived experience are also an important bridge for people with addictions as peers and those with lived experience have their personal experience with addiction and recovery that they can speak to when discussing options with clients.
Leader in the Overdose Epidemic
Lookout has also been a leader in supplying harm reduction supplies to drug users in the form of safe injection kits and safe smoking kits. Lookout also has naloxone kits and trained staff at all sites. Clients are encouraged to become educated and naloxone trained. With the recent dramatic increase in overdoses Lookout has been approved for 2 safe consumption sites and have several supervised consumption designated areas within our locations.
“The overdose epidemic has placed a tremendous strain on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, as well as on front-line staff…We are pleased to move forward with supervised consumption services at SafePoint and the Powell Street Getaway, and know that these services will go a long way in making a difference to the lives of those on 135A Street and in the Downtown Eastside.”
-Shayne Williams, Chief Executive Officer of Lookout Society
Lookout is dedicated to the education of staff and clients and is continually in dialogue with other community groups and health provider on such topics as overdose prevention, current drug risks, and client naloxone training.