Thursday, October 9, 2008

Shooting (up) the messenger

You can tell when someone is on shaky ground in a discussion. They'll take full aim at the messenger and shoot, rather than address the message. That's the case with the latest fuss over inSite, the "safe" injection site experiment on the Downtown East Side.

It's now come out that the RCMP paid for -- or contributed funding for -- a study that claims the site is not accomplishing even what its advocates say it will do, namely reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis. And what's the story in the Vancouver Sun? Nothing to refute or confirm the findings of the study, but the fact that the RCMP paid for it while asking for their names to be kept out of it.

See, if the DTES were all nice and clean now, with people not swarming through alleys and doorways at all hours of the day or night, shooting their heroin or smoking their crack, I'd be right behind the concept. But I'm one of these people who says, "look at the fruits": what is the result? If the result is still a bad situation, then the proposed solution DOESN'T WORK!

Whatever the supporters -- even if they do include Mayor Sam Sullivan and Premier Gordon Campbell -- think, I walk past the stark evidence of inSite's total failure every day. People do stick needles in their arms in broad daylight, and do their deals out in the open and smoke their crack; they lurch, zombie-like, around Pigeon Park and across Hastings and Carrall Streets, totally oblivious to the oncoming motor vehicles, and probably calloused to the idea they might get killed doing that. Once beautiful women are now toothless and ravaged by the effects of the drugs; achingly pretty girls, still in or barely out of their teens, turn up in the area, headed for a similar fate.

I don't blame the police for wanting to discredit inSite: they're in a worse position than I am in having to clean up its mess. I hang about the Mission and preach the Gospel and pray over people and try to encourage them to turn to Jesus rather than the needle or the pipe. They have to break up the fights and keep the dealers off-balance and see courts cut loose the people they've just arrested and in the eyes of many -- especially in the media, witness the biased tone of the Vancouver Sun article (nice to include the Pivot Society brief, but where's the actual discussion of the issues?) -- are always in the wrong. They have to deal with the fact that, as I've written before in this space, the DTES has taken on a spirit of lawlessness, turning the place into Dodge City.

(Perhaps the inSite supporters could explain why one of my friends at the Mission told me, the day after another pro-inSite demonstration in the summer, that he'd missed going to the demonstration and "it cost me 35 bucks". He then explained that that was the going rate to get people to show up. A free ferry ride to Victoria and a box lunch were, he told me, the compensation for attending a "spontaneous" demonstration at the Legislature prior to that. He did get in on that one.)

The solution is not to give them a clean place to do their drugs (and I note a subtle alteration in language: "safe injection site" has now become "supervised injection site"; things that make you go "hmmm"). The solution is to get them off drugs. Reverse-engineering that, we need to give them a reason to get off drugs, because (a) so many people are disabled in the area that it's very hard for them to see that any kind of turnaround is possible, and (b) no amount of programs and rehab and detox will work unless the person him- or herself actually wants it to work. What makes a person want something to work? A renewing of the mind. And what brings a renewing of the mind?

Jesus Christ.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)

Of course, you can't get government funding for the Holy Spirit. Scientists spend so much time ignoring the elephant in the living room because the Holy Spirit is not for sale, but a good theory, well presented to health boffins in government and properly spun to the media, can be worth millions.

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