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Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction

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The grassroots story of a revolutionary approach to drug addiction that is saving lives. While North America is in the grips of a drug epidemic, Fighting for Space explains the concept of harm reduction as a crucial component of a city’s response to the crisis. It tells the story of a grassroots group of drug users in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who waged a political stree The grassroots story of a revolutionary approach to drug addiction that is saving lives. While North America is in the grips of a drug epidemic, Fighting for Space explains the concept of harm reduction as a crucial component of a city’s response to the crisis. It tells the story of a grassroots group of drug users in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who waged a political street fight for two decades to transform how the city treats its most marginalized citizens. Fighting for Space follows the lives of two women—Liz Evans, who founded the Portland Hotel Society, and Ann Livingston, who co-founded the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users—and the extraordinary lengths they went to help their community weather a crisis. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, this group of residents from Canada’s poorest neighbourhood organized themselves in response to a growing number of overdose deaths and demanded that addicts be given the same rights as any other citizen. But just as their battle came to an end, fentanyl arrived and opioid deaths across North America reached an all-time high. It’s prompted many to rethink the war on drugs. Public opinion has slowly begun to turn against prohibition, and policy-makers are finally beginning to look at addiction as a health issue as opposed to one for the criminal justice system. The previous epidemic in Vancouver sparked government action. Twenty years later, as the same pattern plays out in other cities, there is much that advocates for reform can learn from Vancouver’s experience. Fighting for Space tells that story, with the same passionate fervor as the activists whose tireless work gave dignity to addicts and saved countless lives.


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The grassroots story of a revolutionary approach to drug addiction that is saving lives. While North America is in the grips of a drug epidemic, Fighting for Space explains the concept of harm reduction as a crucial component of a city’s response to the crisis. It tells the story of a grassroots group of drug users in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who waged a political stree The grassroots story of a revolutionary approach to drug addiction that is saving lives. While North America is in the grips of a drug epidemic, Fighting for Space explains the concept of harm reduction as a crucial component of a city’s response to the crisis. It tells the story of a grassroots group of drug users in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who waged a political street fight for two decades to transform how the city treats its most marginalized citizens. Fighting for Space follows the lives of two women—Liz Evans, who founded the Portland Hotel Society, and Ann Livingston, who co-founded the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users—and the extraordinary lengths they went to help their community weather a crisis. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, this group of residents from Canada’s poorest neighbourhood organized themselves in response to a growing number of overdose deaths and demanded that addicts be given the same rights as any other citizen. But just as their battle came to an end, fentanyl arrived and opioid deaths across North America reached an all-time high. It’s prompted many to rethink the war on drugs. Public opinion has slowly begun to turn against prohibition, and policy-makers are finally beginning to look at addiction as a health issue as opposed to one for the criminal justice system. The previous epidemic in Vancouver sparked government action. Twenty years later, as the same pattern plays out in other cities, there is much that advocates for reform can learn from Vancouver’s experience. Fighting for Space tells that story, with the same passionate fervor as the activists whose tireless work gave dignity to addicts and saved countless lives.

30 review for Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Sometimes you read a book and think: “I wish everyone would read this.” Fighting for Space is one of those books. A history of harm reduction in North America centered around a group of amazing people in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver whose activism and risks led to the first legal supervised injection site in North America. Lupick has laid out 20 years of history in such a warm and accessible way - non-fiction storytelling at its finest. And a timely story. The overdose crisis of the late 9 Sometimes you read a book and think: “I wish everyone would read this.” Fighting for Space is one of those books. A history of harm reduction in North America centered around a group of amazing people in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver whose activism and risks led to the first legal supervised injection site in North America. Lupick has laid out 20 years of history in such a warm and accessible way - non-fiction storytelling at its finest. And a timely story. The overdose crisis of the late 90s that led to the creation of Insite saw overdose deaths in BC climb to an unprecedented 400/year. In our current crisis, we are looking at 140 per MONTH. 1,500 people per year. In BC alone. And the coroner says without the harm reduction services we have in place, it would be 3 times that. This book is a call to action. And a reminder that as Martin Luther King once said, we have a moral responsibility to disregard unjust laws. The Portland Hotel Society, VANDU, and the Overdose Prevention Society have done just that. And their stories are inspiring as hell.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Morrison

    So so so good

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Lupick did an immense amount of research for this book and it shows. However, much like the stories and lives that he writes about, the narrative is chaotic. The book follows a very loose chronology of harm reduction in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, but frequently doubles back in time, repeating snippets or introducing entirely new details from previous stories. It's also hard to keep track of the many, many people and organizations who helped shape what Vancouver's opioid policies look like to Lupick did an immense amount of research for this book and it shows. However, much like the stories and lives that he writes about, the narrative is chaotic. The book follows a very loose chronology of harm reduction in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, but frequently doubles back in time, repeating snippets or introducing entirely new details from previous stories. It's also hard to keep track of the many, many people and organizations who helped shape what Vancouver's opioid policies look like today. Still, an informative and insightful read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tom Heneghan

    This book makes me want to go out and get arrested which honestly is the very best a book can do.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Patricia L.

    This nonfiction book is riveting, The author captured all the best stories and gossip of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside characters and placed them accurately in their context, aka sirens, shopping carts, and drug dealers. There are real heroes in these chapters and too many deaths. Read this book and weep. Or read this book as a call to action. This nonfiction book is riveting, The author captured all the best stories and gossip of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside characters and placed them accurately in their context, aka sirens, shopping carts, and drug dealers. There are real heroes in these chapters and too many deaths. Read this book and weep. Or read this book as a call to action.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    It took me quite a few chapters to have a desire to sit down and read this book, and I love the subject matter of drug policy reform and health-based treatment for people who use drugs. It didn't grip me, but the last 1/3 of it did. The take-away from it for me was just what a long, hard fight it is to gain momentum for marginalized people to have their voices heard. My favorite book about drugs and drug policy is Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari. I was interested in this book because it fleshe It took me quite a few chapters to have a desire to sit down and read this book, and I love the subject matter of drug policy reform and health-based treatment for people who use drugs. It didn't grip me, but the last 1/3 of it did. The take-away from it for me was just what a long, hard fight it is to gain momentum for marginalized people to have their voices heard. My favorite book about drugs and drug policy is Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari. I was interested in this book because it fleshes out one of the stories he includes in that book and gives the 20-year battle for health-based solutions in Vancouver. I don't think it's as accessible to politically moderate people as Chasing the Scream is. Its treatment of drug use felt to me more normalized in this book, which won't resonate with people who are open to reform but always want people not using drugs. But it feels like a book championing the cause to a narrower audience than Chasing the Scream does, and for that it seems well-researched and very thorough and I'm glad I read it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Anyone who is interested in the Downtown Eastside, in harm reduction, in understanding more about addiction, homelessness and community organizing should read this compelling, highly accessible and beautifully written book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Hui

    Excellent, progressive journalism that reads like a page-turner.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Read this book. Get your friends to read this book. Read it if you love me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Vander Schaaf

    I made a commitment in the last couple of years to switch up my reading habits and spend more time listening to marginalized voices. When a friend recommended this book, it feel strangely urgent to get it into my hands. I read it in just a couple of (long) sittings and was totally engaged. I am grateful to Lupick for his devotion to the stories of the residents and activists of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver and elsewhere who have fought for respect and all that comes with it. The per I made a commitment in the last couple of years to switch up my reading habits and spend more time listening to marginalized voices. When a friend recommended this book, it feel strangely urgent to get it into my hands. I read it in just a couple of (long) sittings and was totally engaged. I am grateful to Lupick for his devotion to the stories of the residents and activists of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver and elsewhere who have fought for respect and all that comes with it. The period covered in the book roughly parallels my time in Vancouver. Fighting for Space is the story of a community that was both next door and a world away from me. It was good to recognize some of the names in the book—Bud Osborn and Dave Diewert especially as I met them during those years. The acronyms DERA and VANDU now me so much more to me and I bow down to the activists and volunteers that began and continue the work of these critically important organizations. By putting names and faces and personalities onto these pages, Lupick has opened a window of understanding that transforms "The Downtown Eastside" into a community of human beings, not an issue to be addressed or a problem to be solved. Referring to the Portland Hotel, a radically inclusive social housing organization, activist Mark Evans sums it up well: "What the Portland represented for all of us, in the beginning, was an opportunity to not be controlling, not be coercive, and to leave people to be human beings first." (p272) Add this, from Gabor Maté: "We saw the addiction not as characterizing the person, but as a coping mechanism. And underneath, there was a very sensitive or creative, interesting human being, who had just suffered so much that the addiction became their way of coping." (p272) It's one thing to acknowledge this in the theoretical realm, and another to hear the stories and 'meet' these human beings in such a way as to recognize it as truth—deep, embodied truth. I have long had compassion for the marginalized poor and the addicted that call the DTES home, but I need to admit that it was not a terribly informed compassion and it was certainly (I'm learning) marked with the patronizing overtones that come with the white privilege and associated economic advantage. Indeed, using terms like 'the poor' or 'the addicted' is one of the ways the privileged keep these sensitive, creative, and interesting human beings at a distance. Reading Fighting for Space has rightly challenged me and affirmed my commitment to breaking down the distance between me and this community. I have long been a proponent of harm reduction but I have a fresh view now of it being something much broader and deeper than anything reflected in public policy to date. In a speech to the Health Board of the city of Vancouver, DTES activist and poet Bud Osborn described the experience of the residents of the Downtown Eastside as a genocide, adding, "To ascribe the eruption of this tragic phenomena to the behaviour of addicts, to injection drug users crowding into the Downtown Eastside in unsanitary conditions and injecting cocaine in large numbers is a subtle form of blaming the victim for their conditions, when the production of this epidemic can be found in the near criminal neglect and abandonment of our poorest and most afflicted citizens by all three levels of government." (p116) He said much the same thing to a pastor who described the church's offerings of free food as a sort of harm reduction: "We don't need a sandwich. We need justice!" (p.122) I learned a lot between the pages of Fighting for Space and am inspired to continue to grow in knowledge and appreciation and embodied advocacy for the community of the DTES. I highly recommend this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Katrina Daigle

    This book is absolutely necessary to the understanding of the East End in Vancouver. If you aren't familiar with the area or want to know more about the East End and the troubles that follow it you must read this book. I tagged, wrote, and underlined so much of what was written. It will help you build a foundation of knowledge of the area and helps you to value and appreciate all the work that everyone in the book has done to get the East End to where it is today. It will also give you a better u This book is absolutely necessary to the understanding of the East End in Vancouver. If you aren't familiar with the area or want to know more about the East End and the troubles that follow it you must read this book. I tagged, wrote, and underlined so much of what was written. It will help you build a foundation of knowledge of the area and helps you to value and appreciate all the work that everyone in the book has done to get the East End to where it is today. It will also give you a better understanding of why the work that is being done there is still relevant and still important even more so today. East Van might be intimidating to people who don't know better. It probably looks awful, and a place you would never want to venture down to... Fighting for Space will allow you the ability to look through a window without having to step foot there; however, I encourage all who want to know more to be there and present. Because the addicts down there deserve just as much attention from us as the people who are healthy. They are people. They are deserving of our love. They deserve our respect. I had an appreciation for addicts before going there for my paramedic practicum, but after my experience there I became an advocate. I try to correct wrong ideas, and try to help guide people into understanding rather than judging those they don't. Read "Fighting for Space", it will give you so much, and you will give so much in return. You'll give the understanding and empathy that these people deserve, and the support that the people who work there genuinely deserve. I can say that I will be rereading this book, and going back to the little notes that I made while reading.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline Worboys

    Living in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, Travis Lupick details the history of this area's challenges, difficulties, and activism. Unique in Canada with its challenges with drug use because of the high percentage of drug users, more than twenty years ago many residents organized to try to create a safer place to use drugs. The mayor of Vancouver, Philip Owen supported the goal. At the same time HIV/AIDS deaths were growing all over Vancouver. In a singular act, the Liberal government of Can Living in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, Travis Lupick details the history of this area's challenges, difficulties, and activism. Unique in Canada with its challenges with drug use because of the high percentage of drug users, more than twenty years ago many residents organized to try to create a safer place to use drugs. The mayor of Vancouver, Philip Owen supported the goal. At the same time HIV/AIDS deaths were growing all over Vancouver. In a singular act, the Liberal government of Canada allowed Vancouver to have its own safe injection site in 2003-the only one in North America. When the Conservative government was elected in 2006, the battle continued, as the Conservatives were dedicated to getting rid of the site. Lupick tells the story of the people who worked hard to make it better, the toll it took, and what may happen next. A very worthwhile read for everyone, as we fight the onslaught of an opioid drug epidemic that his so many families. Read Johann Hari's Chasing the Scream, the book that inspired Lupick to write. We need to learn more and to have this conversation.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Conner

    The night before I started this book I attended a neighborhood-organized meeting about heroin use and dealing in a park in my city. It included a full powerpoint presentation titled "Tale of Two Parks" that moved through a series of photos of children's birthday parties and school activities and then drug dealers, users, and car thieves in the same environment. A few photos captured both in the same frame bringing the juxtaposition to the same flicker of the camera shutter. At page 100 I took a The night before I started this book I attended a neighborhood-organized meeting about heroin use and dealing in a park in my city. It included a full powerpoint presentation titled "Tale of Two Parks" that moved through a series of photos of children's birthday parties and school activities and then drug dealers, users, and car thieves in the same environment. A few photos captured both in the same frame bringing the juxtaposition to the same flicker of the camera shutter. At page 100 I took a youth mentee to lunch to discuss his career track toward becoming an officer. Currently he works at McDonalds with his mother. When I asked how that job was going the first thing he brought up was heroin and how frequently users occupied the bathrooms to inject. Upon concluding the book I'd been in discussion with a father from San Diego who spent a week on the streets with his son bearing witness to his homelessness and heroin addiction. A couple weeks after finishing the book the State of Colorado voted down supervised injection facilities. A timely read, if anything.... Fighting for Space is a great history of law breaking and law making around supervised injection in Vancouver, Canada. Its a very readable story that fends off the wonkiness of policy making through vivid scenes and strong characters of some very famous pioneers of harm reduction. Through the narrative readers will be introduced to a variety of topics beyond just supervised injection: Housing First models that combat homelessness, science-based understanding of how childhood trauma is ancillary to some addictive behaviors, etc.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kinnon Ross

    Living and working in the city that this story comes from made me really eager to read Lupick’s book. He tells the story of how drug users proved themselves to all levels of government in the most respectful and realistic way I’ve seen yet. I love the people he writes of, and I love the story he’s told. These are the people that I interact with everyday- and it’s hard to articulate how resilient, intelligent and driven they truly are. But this book does exactly that.

  15. 4 out of 5

    kay

    Really love learning about movement work in the 90’s and early 2000’s. This book gives you lessons in harm reduction, lessons in organizing, lessons in the necessity of housing first models, lessons on research being dehumanizing, and really left me reflecting on just how conservative american policy and attitudes toward drug use are. There seemed to be a lot of “work yourself out of a job/organizing” types recurring in the book, and deeply appreciated reading about their approaches and tactics. Really love learning about movement work in the 90’s and early 2000’s. This book gives you lessons in harm reduction, lessons in organizing, lessons in the necessity of housing first models, lessons on research being dehumanizing, and really left me reflecting on just how conservative american policy and attitudes toward drug use are. There seemed to be a lot of “work yourself out of a job/organizing” types recurring in the book, and deeply appreciated reading about their approaches and tactics. Some parts were kind of “in the weeds” but were still easy to follow, overall it was a really incredible narrative to read and feels like one of i'm going to be referencing in conversations at least once every week.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gordon Casey

    This wonderful book recounts the broad story of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (an area frequently compared to LA's Skid Row) through the personal journeys of the activists, drug users and unlikely property managers there. Starting with an overview of how the DTES became the way it was by the late 1980's or so, Lupick introduces us to the people that arrive there and find it to be a home. A home and a community for them, and so many others that aren't welcome anywhere else. And through this physi This wonderful book recounts the broad story of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (an area frequently compared to LA's Skid Row) through the personal journeys of the activists, drug users and unlikely property managers there. Starting with an overview of how the DTES became the way it was by the late 1980's or so, Lupick introduces us to the people that arrive there and find it to be a home. A home and a community for them, and so many others that aren't welcome anywhere else. And through this physical bond they manage to achieve things that - until very recently - were impossible anywhere else in North America. This is an emotional read without any cheap shots. Lupick manages to weave a compelling narrative while also creating something of a reference tool for anyone who wants to know what happened where, in what order, and who was on board and who wasn't. (It's fascinating to see, as often happens, which political and organisational elements had to be dragged along, yet now crow about their involvement as if it was their own achievement.) Do you have a connection to Vancouver, to addiction, to homelessness, to the opioid crisis? You really must read this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rachael Kenney

    Excellent piece of journalism. It was difficult to follow all of the people and keep them straight so I started writing down the names and something to jog my memory about each one.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Giuliana Guarna

    Lupick does a wonderful job of giving a voice to some of Canada's most marginalized people. A gripping look into the long, difficult, and ongoing battle for the rights of drug users across the globe. As a healthcare provider, I am often frustrated with how little we are able to do within the confines of a terribly bureaucratic system, that leaves folks stranded and with nowhere to go. I commend the tireless work of the folks at PHS and thank them for all that they have given to thousands of peop Lupick does a wonderful job of giving a voice to some of Canada's most marginalized people. A gripping look into the long, difficult, and ongoing battle for the rights of drug users across the globe. As a healthcare provider, I am often frustrated with how little we are able to do within the confines of a terribly bureaucratic system, that leaves folks stranded and with nowhere to go. I commend the tireless work of the folks at PHS and thank them for all that they have given to thousands of people and families.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Moving, humbling, sobering, saddening, inspiring book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richelle Bennie

    Really interesting. Hard to read at times. Opened my eyes

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christopher W

    Mandatory reading for anyone with strong feelings about addiction, substance abuse, mental health, or homelessness. A moving history told with journalistic integrity and compassion.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rory Clair

    A beautiful portrait of compassion, protest, and hardship Addiction, poverty, mental illness, protest, and advocacy are each made more tangible through this story. This is a call to action for more compassionate and evidence-based approaches to each of the above issues.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Audrey Monette

    This is one of my favourite books ever. Very well written and provides an in-depth understanding of the opioid crisis in Vancouver's Downtown East Side. It highlights the strength and resilience of people who use drugs. This is one of my favourite books ever. Very well written and provides an in-depth understanding of the opioid crisis in Vancouver's Downtown East Side. It highlights the strength and resilience of people who use drugs.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Toby Mustill

    I have yet to read a book that so eloquently and realistically describes the DTES. Travis (the author) does an excellent job providing the outsider ([probably] the reader) with a real understanding of the difficulties, pressures and realities of the individuals who spend their days on the DTES. In addition, Travis also guides the reader through the history of the drug war, harm reduction and the DTES. After having read this book, I feel much more enlightened.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    Definitely raised a lot of questions and provided a lot of clarity. Addicts taking control of their situations and thereby gaining personal power is a very good thing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jessie Dunleavy

    This is an important book to read. Well researched and packed with insight, it drives home the dire need for drug policy reform in the US. In portraying the struggles of real people (who win your heart), and the unyielding dedication of activists (who win your admiration), the book clarifies the importance of recalibrating the approach to reducing overdose fatalities. You can't read about these real-life experiences in Vancouver and not feel a deep-seated empathy for those who suffer, nor can yo This is an important book to read. Well researched and packed with insight, it drives home the dire need for drug policy reform in the US. In portraying the struggles of real people (who win your heart), and the unyielding dedication of activists (who win your admiration), the book clarifies the importance of recalibrating the approach to reducing overdose fatalities. You can't read about these real-life experiences in Vancouver and not feel a deep-seated empathy for those who suffer, nor can you avoid developing a genuine respect for the passion that drives those who ultimately make a difference. If only the breakthroughs in Vancouver could trickle down into the US, bringing a society in which health care and dignity triumph over criminalization and dehumanization, we too could begin to turn the corner on the overdose crisis and maybe even lose the distinction of having the highest number of overdose deaths per capita in the world.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence Grandpre

    The history of harm reduction is important. It inevitably must be told by the people involved. The story is engrossing and inspiring. It does raise the question of whether the author is a reliable narrator. The book deeply under covers the "corruption" scandal, which the book all but says was a frame-up/hit job to undermine the Portland Hotel organization. There seem to be very credable claims of real mismanagment made by other people in the harm reduction movement, but these outside perspective The history of harm reduction is important. It inevitably must be told by the people involved. The story is engrossing and inspiring. It does raise the question of whether the author is a reliable narrator. The book deeply under covers the "corruption" scandal, which the book all but says was a frame-up/hit job to undermine the Portland Hotel organization. There seem to be very credable claims of real mismanagment made by other people in the harm reduction movement, but these outside perspectives are not covered.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Noni

    vital reading for anyone concerned with addiction, treatment and the drug trade. thank you travis for recording this history with such care

  29. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    I went in to this really expecting-and wanting-to like it. Unfortunately, I felt like the book reinforced a lot of stigma while ostensibly trying to be pro-harm reduction. First and most obvious is the choice of language used--people who use drugs are consistently referred to throughout the book as "addicts." I understand that this word will come up in quoted material, but the author's choice to use it consistently when referring to people is puzzling. This label is deeply stigmatizing and dehum I went in to this really expecting-and wanting-to like it. Unfortunately, I felt like the book reinforced a lot of stigma while ostensibly trying to be pro-harm reduction. First and most obvious is the choice of language used--people who use drugs are consistently referred to throughout the book as "addicts." I understand that this word will come up in quoted material, but the author's choice to use it consistently when referring to people is puzzling. This label is deeply stigmatizing and dehumanizing and generally people in the harm reduction, medical, social services, and journalism professions have stopped using it. Additionally, the way the author describes sex work is disgusting and reflects none of the complexity that *actual sex workers* use to describe their work. Thematically, the book also focused a lot on the "chaos" of drug users' lives. It felt sensationalized and like it was pandering to the worst media stereotypes of people who use drugs. I know firsthand the circumstances and consequences of chaotic drug use, but I don't think this book did a good job of holding the nuances of the ways drug use impacts people lives and the fact that people still have agency and the ability to effect change for themselves and others, as evidenced by the decades-long activism campaign the residents of the DTES were engaged in. This book also consistently highlighted harm reduction programs in the U.S. that are pro-cop without any sort of analysis or examination of the ways that this is detrimental to people who use drugs. The book also opened with a story of someone developing a substance use disorder after being prescribed opioid pain medication, which is a common media narrative but the data illustrates this represents a minority of opioid users in the U.S. It's frustrating that this story gets pushed over and over again, because it seriously oversimplifies the origins of and the solutions for the overdose crisis. Maybe this book will change people's minds about harm reduction, but I think people who use drugs and sex workers deserve better.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Micah

    Fighting for Space covers the grassroots activism and organizing within Vancouver's Downtown East Side neighborhood (DTES) during the 1980's through the early 00's to ultimately supply large-scale harm reduction to drug users. Lupick weaves together several narratives to expose the history and reasoning that lead to some of the most successful activism against drug prohibition in North America. The book feels much closer to an oral history than a traditional journalistic nonfiction title, but I Fighting for Space covers the grassroots activism and organizing within Vancouver's Downtown East Side neighborhood (DTES) during the 1980's through the early 00's to ultimately supply large-scale harm reduction to drug users. Lupick weaves together several narratives to expose the history and reasoning that lead to some of the most successful activism against drug prohibition in North America. The book feels much closer to an oral history than a traditional journalistic nonfiction title, but I think that it works in the favor of the story Lupick is trying to tell. That is, he's able to successfully get out of the way and let the interviewees and actual participants in this history speak for themselves. To be clear - I read this a year ago. My brain was broken for longer reads, as such I think it was the only full print book I read between March of 2020 and January of 2021. And it was worth the effort. I read it while working graveyards at a transitional housing unit, and it filled in so much of the history around how, exactly, I came to be working at a place where I could just give needles to anyone who was in need of clean supplies. It was a perfect book for me as someone who was an outsider but regularly works in the DTES. I strongly feel that anyone who isn't already intimately familiar with this story should take the time to sit down with it. It also serves to show effective strategies for other geographies - empathetic bipartisan politicians, a few allies who don't use but are fully dedicated to ensuring safety for their neighbors, plus the hyperfocus of drug users themselves, pushing for safer space and ensuring that there be 'nothing about us without us.' (Bonus! Here are a couple paragraphs about when US threatened Canadian sovereignty over the opening of Canada opening a state-sanctioned safe injection site: https://twitter.com/MicahKilljoy/stat... )) Overall a highly recommended read for anyone new to Vancouver or anti-prohibition activism as a whole.

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