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Temporary parklet approved in Downtown Eastside for safe alcohol consumption space

It follows a pilot program that ran last year
The site of the safe alcohol consumption space is at 111 Princess Ave.

Vancouver city council has approved turning a couple of parking spaces at 111 Princess Ave. into a small parklet to allow the safe consumption of alcohol at the Alexander Street Community building in the Downtown Eastside.

The building is run by the PHS Community Services Society and provides low-barrier housing and a variety of social services including the Drinker’s Lounge, the society's Community Managed Alcohol Program. It's that program that the new temporary parklet zoning was approved to help.

"This program exists to bring a harm reduction approach to the consumption of non-beverage alcohol such as hand sanitizers and mouthwash, with participants benefiting from controlled access to alcohol, basic resources, cultural engagement, and access to healthcare," states the city in a press release.

Last year the city ran a pilot program to allow public consumption of alcohol in certain locations in response to the pandemic after there were reports of increased public drinking and "street activity"; that pilot has ended and staff are working on a report now about how it went.

This new parklet (and the allowance to drink in it) is being created following the closure of the pilot locations.

“PHS is grateful for the opportunity to support a place for illicit drinkers to come together and socialize in a COVID-respectful way," says Susan Alexman, PHS Director of Programs. She notes that it will also allow the society to engage with people using the service, who struggle with severe alcohol use disorder and may turn to mouthwash or rubbing alcohol.

In a report to council city staff suggested there were a variety of benefits, including decreased isolation for people who use the service, less public drinking, fewer issues related to public intoxication for area businesses (notably around the Astoria Hotel) and increased access to supports for those looking for support.

"This pilot project is, in a way, an example of unlikely allies working together over many months and through difficult conversations to arrive at a new way forward,” says Theodora Lamb, Executive Director of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association, in the release.

The parklet is approved to be open until July 31 and providing PHS with $75,000 to run the space.

-- CORRECTION: This story was updated to clarify the land being used for the parklet and the nature of the Alexander Street Community.