The Woodward’s Project: Will junkies rule the roost?
People are using Woodward’s as a shooting gallery. Addicts are walking off the street and into the Woodward’s public atrium, sitting down, and injecting illegal drugs. I took this photo just before 9AM on Wednesday morning. The two women seated are in their early 20s, if that. They were fiddling with their dope and their dope paraphernalia when I walked into the atrium; the place was almost deserted as the shops hadn’t opened yet. A man stood in front of the two women, trying to provide cover. Great. Just great.
Maybe public drug use inside Woodward’s shouldn’t surprise. The development is gateway to a dope-infested neighbourhood where open crack smoking and heroin and cocaine injection are so common, people don’t even bat an eye. But I wonder: How will folks who are really invested in Woodward’s–the condo owners and renters, the shopkeepers, the university faculty and the office workers–react when they walk into something like I did on Wednesday morning? I don’t think anyone can–or should feel they have to–”get over” the sight of a gaunt, scarred addict plunging a needle into her arm and fishing about for a vein. The scene I recorded could make a good argument for the continued operation of Insite, the supervised injection site two blocks to the east. While I’m still not completely sold on Insite, area residents including the working poor tell me it’s had a positive impact on the neighbourhood. But only a fraction of daily injections in the DTES are done there, and Insite isn’t open at 9 AM on a Wednesday.
“You can’t take my picture,” the blonde woman yelled at me, once she’d finished her business. “I’m an aspiring model.” She might once have been. But her eyes are sunken and her face is covered with scabs, which she tries to hide with a heavy application of makeup. She looks ill. She is poisoning herself.
“Yeah, I’m using dope right now,” she continued, “but that doesn’t mean you can take my picture.” Actually, I can, and I will. Using discretion with a camera elsewhere in the Downtown Eastside is just common sense; walking into an alley and taking a picture of a junkie fixing, without his permission, is dangerous. But I don’t think the same rule applies inside the Woodward’s atrium. If it does, and junkies are to rule the roost, then I’m sorry, but this $400-million experiment will fail.
Article written by Brian Hutchison - National Post
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