DECL: Spring Events 2019

DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St. decl.org
(all events at the DECL Community Space)

DOWNTOWN DINING WEEK POTLUCK
March 12, 6:30pm
Celebrate Downtown Dining Week with a community potluck.

INFO SESSION ON SOLAR POWER FOR CONDOS
March 23, 2pm-4pm
Join us and the Oliver Community League, in partnership with Alberta
Green Energy Network, for an information session on condo energy
efficiency and solar power for condos.

DECL ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
April 25, 7pm
Join the DECL board and your fellow community league members for the
2019 Annual General Meeting. Come down to vote for your new board
members and hear what’s in store for the year ahead.

DECL SPRING CLEANUP
May 5, 10am
Join us for our Annual Spring Clean- Up in conjunction with River Valley
Clean-Up. Get some exercise and keep our community clean!

DECL URBAN KIDS PLAYGROUP
Every Friday, 10am-11:30am
Urban Kids Playgroup for downtown parents and kids 0-5 years of age!
Join us for snacks and free coffee.

DECL DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE MEETING
Last Thursday of the Month, 7pm
Join us in discussion on the latest development proposals and city planning.

SUNDAY DINNER POTLUCK
April 14, 6:30pm
Let’s eat together! Join your neighbours for the start of a regular Sunday dinner series.

DECL board of directors: Chris Buyze (President), Laurissa Kalinowsky (VP), Chris Wudark (Treasurer), Rainer Kocsis (Secretary), Erin Bayus, Edmond Chui, Jason Gold, Christie Lutsiak, Andrew MacIsaac, Michelle McGuiness, Glenn Rowbottom, Tim Schneider, Xiaosu Zeng

Downtown Edmonton Community League
10042 103 Avenue
Edmonton, AB, T5J 0X2
web: decl.org
e: info@decl.org
Facebook.com/declorg
Twitter: @DECLorg
Instagram: @declorg

What’s a Community League?
Community Leagues are unique to Edmonton. They’re inclusive, grass-
roots, community-based organizations found in each of this city’s 150-plus neighbourhoods. They facilitate healthy, safe, informed and connected communities by promoting participation in recreation, social activities and civic advocacy at the sidewalk level. They’re volunteer-run and promote volunteerism because getting involved is a great way to learn more about your neighbourhood and city. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to learn valua able professional skills, meet your neighbours and have fun. Join the movement today!

OCL: Spring Events 2019

OLIVER READS
March 4, April 15, May 27 6pm
Oliver’s next book club meeting will discuss “White Teeth” by Zadie
Smith. Get your free membership to the Edmonton Public Library for
a hard copy or e-book version. Club meets to discuss a new book every 6
weeks. Join the club by emailing us at events@olivercommunity.com
MEC community room, 11904 104 Ave

WALKING PUB CRAWL OF OLIVER
March 15, April 19, and May 17, 8pm
Join your neighbours, meet with new and old friends and explore some
local pubs. Locations TBD; please check up on OCL’s Facebook page.
118 St. and 103 Ave, by the playground

OLIVER PARK ENGAGEMENT SESSION
March 28, 6pm-8pm
Open house to see community member drawings of possibilities of community use of the former St. John’s School Site and Oliver
Park. Help choose a winner from the drawings.
Grace Lutheran Church 9907 114 St

OCL AND SNAP GALLERY PRESENT: OUR OLIVER
March 15, 7:30-10:30pm
A drop-in community printmaking event! Inspired by input from Oliver
residents, local artist Kiona Ligtvoet has created a piece that you can print
and take home. Suggested donation $10.
SNAP Printshop, 10123 121 St., Jasper Avenue Entrance

CIVICS COMMITTEE
April 8, May 6, June 10, 7pm
This highly engaged committee meets on the second Monday of the month (unless otherwise posted) to discuss developments in Oliver. Please enter through the parking lot entrance (grey door).
Grace Lutheran Church 9907 114 St

OCL ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
April 24
Review financials, vote in new directors, learn more about OCL and
what we’re up to. Mix and mingle with neighbours. Registration starts
at 6 pm, program at 7pm,
Grace Lutheran Church 9907 114 St

OLIVER BLOCK PARTY
May 29, 4-8pm
Party at the “new” Grandin Lookout. Everyone welcome!
Corner of 114 St and 99 Ave.

DROP-IN BASKETBALL
Tuesdays, 7pm
Enjoy a pickup game or just shoot some hoops at this regular basketball
drop-in open to the Oliver Community. In the gym at Grace Lutheran Church.
Grace Lutheran Church 9907 114 St

OCL board of directors: Lisa Brown (President), Luwam Kiflemariam (VP),
Erin Wright (Secretary), Robin Paches (Treasurer), Ilya Ushakov, Courtney
Rippin Kaufman, Keltie Gower, Justin Keats, Blaine Kovacik, Jade Arnaout,
Sanjana Sharma, Mark Workman, Simon Yackulic, Derek MacDonald

Oliver Community League
9907 114 St NW
Edmonton, AB T5K 1P7
web: olivercommunity.com
e: info@olivercommunity.com
Facebook.com/OliverCommunityLeague
Twitter: @OCLYEG
Instagram: @oclyeg

A Big Green Win

This last year has been significantly different than before for the residents of the Warehouse area and those who live particularly along 104 Street. Alex Decoteau Park has made a big impact on the lives of residents of the area as a gathering place. Since its inception and continued updates, the award-winning Capital City Downtown Plan has contemplated more green space and parks. Many of the city’s own documents over the years have
acknowledged a lack of green space for residents Downtown. Sure the river valley is nice, but it’s not right outside our door.

This past fall, city council approved funding for design and development of a large ‘District’ park in our Warehouse area. Just this past January, council affirmed this decision to move forward with acquiring the final sites needed for this park, north of Jasper Avenue, from 106 Street to just beyond 107 Street. At over 1.4 hectares, this park is already proving to be a huge catalyst for further residential development in the area, with several towers proposed. Much of this will cover the undesirable surface lots that have plagued much of the Warehouse area for decades.

The importance of this park, and other future parks in the Downtown can not be overstated. They directly contribute to the health and wellbeing of residents, providing respite, a chance to socialize with neighbours, and a way to ensure Downtown is an attractive and desirable place for people to live, visit and do business.

At the public hearing this spring, which required city council to approve an
expropriation of the final site to realize the vision of this large recreational park, I was impressed by the consensus around the room from administration, planners, residents, business and developers alike, about the need for this new green space. It re-affirms for me the priorities our board has advocated for over the last 10 years. Those are that more parks and recreational infrastructure Downtown is important to a lot of folks.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this large green space. We hope to see you participate in consultations regarding its design, (hopefully) later in 2019.

Chris Buyze

Public Spaces Matter

I lived in Oliver for more than seven years before I knew we had a pool. It isn’t really advertised. Instead, it’s tucked away in the middle of our neighbourhood. If you were walking by Oliver Park, the pool would be easy to miss.

Even though it’s hidden, Oliver Pool is a gem – especially in a city where we don’t have a beach to flock to on a hot day. When outdoor pools became free over the past two years, Oliver Pool became accessible to so many more.

Oliver has the most residents of any other neighbourhood in Edmonton, more than 18,000. Our population spans all ages, from babies in apartments to seniors in our many seniors residences. It spans abilities, incomes and cultures.

Our community has a potential hub in Oliver Park. We have the pool, unless City Council decides to close it, and the Oliver Community League is working hard to move through the city’s process to replace our hall on our land at Oliver Park. Our arena will not be replaced, which gives us space to develop a small facility to serve the needs of our community. We can preserve the playground, mature trees and green space. Imagine Oliver Park having something for everyone.

You’ll read more about the proposed land swap between Oliver Park and the former St. John’s School site, to allow the construction of a 24-storey tower on Oliver Park, in this issue of The Yards. The Oliver Community League recently voted against this proposal and will advocate for city
council to do the same.

Personally, I think it would be a shame to lose Oliver Park, the pool, and the overall potential of a community hub. There are so many other spaces to build towers along 104 Avenue.

My engineering background and passion for sustainable built environments drove me to the Oliver Community League, and I’ve relished the opportunity to shape what’s built here. But what these past five years have shown me is that infrastructure means nothing without a community. We need to invest in our public places, in our recreation spaces, in our complete streets. This is where we connect with our neighbours. And it is these relationships that build our communities.

Lisa Brown

Site Unseen

Carl* stepped on top of the 100,000-barrel tank at the oilsands site in Fort McMurray. It was toward the end of his shift. As the head of a work crew, he went on the tank to check that his grunts were off the site and that he could head home. Carl looked from his perch, nearly 15 metres in the air, and confirmed his guys were gone. Quitting time. He walked to the edge of the tank, where scaffolding was rigged to its edge, and stepped onto it.

*Carl’s full name has not been used to protect his identity

“The next thing you know – I didn’t realize they were taking the north side of the scaffolding apart – it just tumbled,” Carl says. “I came down with it. Four storeys.” Carl’s next memory from that day is being in a helicopter, struggling to breathe. Memory two is coming to in a hospital bed, feeling tubes in his mouth. He tugged at them. Number three is his doctor, who stood at his bedside and told him he was lucky to be alive. Then came the news. “He said, ‘I’m sorry but I have inform you, you’re paralyzed from the waist down,’” Carl says. “That was a shocker.” After his fall, which happened about two years ago, Carl fought to walk again. One day, he says he suddenly felt one of his toes. Later, friends put him on a treadmill, almost willing him to walk. Three months later, he says he walked out of the University of Alberta hospital, shakily, but on his own two feet. But from there, life didn’t much return. He couldn’t walk well or work. The pain from his injuries was overpowering. He was still mourning his wife, who had died a few years earlier. He treated his pain, in part, with a doctor-prescribed supply of hydromorphone, a powerful opioid. But challenges overwhelmed him. Recently, he ended up on the street. And since March 2018, when Boyle Street’s supervised consumption site opened, Carl has been a regular client. At last count, nurses at the site have resuscitated Carl five times.

A man rings a doorbell and staff inside beckon him through the door. When Erica Schoen, director of supervised consumption services at Boyle Street, sees him, she scrambles across the room. “We’ve been worried about you,” Schoen says.

“At last count, nurses at the site have resuscitated Carl five times”

“We didn’t know what was happening. How are you?” says another nurse, on her way over. The man keeps his eyes low. He’s white, wears a black coat and jeans, and a woman is with him. The woman says nothing but keeps looking at the man, as if she’s worried. “I’m okay,” he says, to everyone, not making eye contact. He just needs to use today. And some food. The man has walked into a controversial space. On the right side of the hallway at Boyle Street Community Services is an unlabeled white door without a window. One must ring a doorbell and be beckoned through this door to enter. Like a faberge egg, what you find on the other side is the first of three inner rooms that form one of Edmonton’s four supervised consumption sites.

Here, in room one, nurses ask questions, like: What are ways we can identify you? What are you consuming today? What drugs have you used in the last 12 hours? Have you had any lapses in use recently? Do you need any other supports, like mental health, shelter, first aid? How are you feeling? And also, more warmly, what’s new?

Deaths linked to opioids climbed from 443 in 2015 to 714 in 2017. It took years of these numbers increasing, and outrage from advocates, for this space to exist. In 2018, harm-reduction proponents in Alberta successfully pushed the federal government to allow agencies to apply for an exemption to the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, for one year. Four have been granted this exemption in Edmonton. This means nurses can legally sit beside someone injecting drugs and keep them alive if they overdose. Advocates say the four sites – at Boyle Street, the George Spady Centre, the Royal Alexandra Hospital and, as of November, the Boyle McCauley Health Centre – lead to fewer deaths and fewer needles on the ground.

But critics say much the opposite. They say the sites are increasing needle debris as well as crime. In Calgary, crime statistics show that a site there has, in fact, been linked with a spike in criminal activity in its vicinity. This led the Alberta government, in January, to hastily commit $200,000 toward crime deterrence. Meanwhile, in Edmonton, a national columnist has argued the downtown sites are leading to increased needle debris in his neighbourhood, while the Chinatown Business Association, part of a community that hosts several of the sites, has taken its opposition to the sites to the courts (see sidebar).

Within this push and pull is a larger truth: the sites save lives. Between March 23, 2018 to January 31, 2019, Elliott Tanti, spokesperson for Boyle Street, says visits at the three community sites (the fourth, at the Royal Alex hospital, is run by Alberta Health Services) in Edmonton totalled 34,990. At the Boyle Street site and the Boyle McCauley Health Centre sites, nurses saw 1,257 unique individuals, referred them to other services 13,416 times and, staggeringly, reversed 221 overdoses. Back in the site, and after answering questions in room one, a client is next welcomed into room two: the consumption room. This is the area few people are allowed to see while clients actually use it. Today, I’ve been allowed.

I stand at the cusp, just outside the door, to give the two clients currently inside some privacy. To my right is a cart with metal trays filled with blue and red elastic straps, plastic-wrapped syringes, cotton filters, hand wipes and other tools to work with opioids.

One of the people inside, a lean, white man, wearing steel-toed work boots and a blue coat with reflective tape, works away in one of five booths, which have sharps container and a mirror. He’s grinding pills he’s brought, preparing to inject them. This make a loud “crunchcrunch” sound. To his right, a 20-something white woman is several steps ahead in the process. She releases the elastic around her arm. Moments later, she transitions from chatting with a nearby nurse to resting her head in her arms. The nurse sits on a chair at an arm’s length, checking in to confirm she’s okay. She is.

Schoen, who has stayed back to let me observe, next shows me room three, the monitoring room, where clients are asked to stay for at least 15 minutes after using, so staff can continue keeping tabs. This is an important spot. It’s also here, Schoen says, where referrals are often made. Mental health supports are a big one, as is housing. One client, who staff had helped find housing – which in turn led to the woman reducing the amount of drugs she uses to a trickle – also has an upcoming operation at the hospital for a long-standing injury. One of Schoen’s staff is going to go with her, like a friend would.

It’s this part of the consumption site – the relationships, empathy and knowledge of the healthcare system – that’s lost in the debate about whether they should exist or not. And it’s the part that Schoen says is powerful. “We instill hope for people,” she says. “If you want everyone to go to detox or treatment and for them to make all these changes, and at the same time we’re kicking them while they’re down, how will people have the motivation to do this? Sleeping in the shelters is difficult. Living on the street is extremely difficult. These people are dealing with so much stuff and then, on top of things, we’re going to blame them for trying to treat mental health, emotional and physical pain? I think we could be doing a better job of supporting people with that.”

Consumption sites were never about solving the opioid crisis, Schoen says. Instead, they’re just one of many tools. “There are many other things we could be doing, including decriminalization, providing people safe drugs, giving people alternatives to having to buy poison off the street,” she says.

Outside the focus on the drugs and consumption, these tools lead to shifts, she says. “I do believe someone who has a sense of purpose is less likely to use drugs. If they have something better to do, or they get tired of the chase, it’s not necessarily because they did what we wanted, go to detox and go to treatment. There are people who have gone to treatment 30 times and it hasn’t worked for them. And then there’s people who have been housed and say, ‘Oh Erica, I have my own space now and I don’t feel so hopeless and I’m decorating and now maybe I want to do something else.’”

But fentanyl, the poison Schoen refers to, is a powerful force. When the Boyle Street site first opened, she says it was common to “hit” a person who had overdosed once or twice with naloxone. But recently, they’ve had to hit people with up to eight doses to bring them back, she says. “The overdoses have got worse since we opened.” I ask Schoen why she showed so much concern for the man who appeared at the door earlier. The stigmatization of drug use creates barriers for people like him to get help, even though the underlying issue is mental-health related, she says. “We’ve just been very concerned with his mental health. If we build those relationships, people feel welcome and they keep coming back and they know they can trust us. I’ve seen him in the hallway before, and he’s like ‘Do you have any food?’ and I’m like, ‘Come on in, I’ll try to find you some.’ He knows our faces and trusts us.”

People like him often fall through the cracks, she says, because drugs create barriers to addressing what’s really leading to drug use. “Regardless of what the behaviour is, regardless of what’s happening with them, if they’re walking out into traffic, people think it’s because of the drugs. If they are barefoot in minus 35, it’s because of the drugs.”

It’s an easy scapegoat, she says, and a barrier to making real change.

Carl sits in the office at Boyle Street Community Services. He’s white, in his 60s, wears a beige puffy parka, an orange baseball hat that says ‘Netherlands’ and dark blue jogging pants. He walks deliberately with a walker, and grunts and clenches with pain whenever he sits. His face can look somewhat ragged, intimidating, but that’s only if he doesn’t know you. If he does, and he likes you, Carl shifts dramatically. His eyes can almost smile. If Carl likes you, it’s hard not to like Carl back.

The thing you need to know about Carl is that he used heroin, daily, for nearly 40 years. He’s proud of this record. He suggests it shows how deliberate he has been, how he scrutinized suppliers, injected test shots, lived with deep respect for his drug’s potency despite his strong tolerance for it. This approach, he says, allowed him to maintain a marriage, raise his kids and run a wildly lucrative construction business while also using.

“In all my years, from 1982 to 2017, I never dropped once,” he says. What took Carl down was fentanyl. After falling from the oil tank, fighting through his paralysis, and after fentanyl came to push heroin out of the drug supply in western Canada over the past few years, Carl found himself forced to use it, as an additive to his prescription opioids – which was either not strong enough or something he sold for his pre ferred fix, heroin. His addiction requires he feed his body lots of opioids, daily. If he doesn’t, he says withdrawal can be so powerful it could eventually kill him. And so in recent years, Carl couldn’t find heroin and had to use fentanyl. He did this at the consumption site close to where he spends his time on the streets. “I came here, and you can ask the staff – I think in one day I dropped five times with fentanyl. I wasn’t used to it,” he says. “I can do heroin all day long. They had to give me the oxygen mask, NARCAN. Unbelievable.”

Few things about drugs really scare Carl. What does is a situation he describes as an epidemic, with meth flooding the streets on top of the existing opioid crisis. “Until you realize that and start dealing with the problem, it’s going to be worse and worse,” he says. “It’s already in middle-class suburbia and the schools. I’ve seen people from schools come down and buy from people off the streets here. So it’s here, it’s here to stay, and as far as us having injection sites, it’s important. More crystal meth users are

“Until you realize that and start dealing with the problem it’s going to be worse and worse”

coming in, but in turn that pushes opioid users out. And there lies your dilemma. We have four sites that are here within the city now and all four are to maximum capacity. It has to be enlarged. You’ll start turning people away. And when you turn people away then it engrains in them not to even go near it. And they’ll just go out and use in back alleys and public places and bathrooms.”

But Carl is most concerned with Edmonton itself. He says it’s a place with a drug problem that doesn’t want to look at it very often or work to fix it. Having lived in Vancouver, eastern Canada and spent time with users in different parts of the country, he has some wisdom about the situation. “I say this sincerely,” he says. “I’ve been to a lot of cities, and I’ve never seen it like it is here in Edmonton.”