VANCOUVER – The day after Justice Wally Oppal’s report presents recommendations to improve support for vulnerable women, the Right to Recovery Walk aims to stop a cut to an addiction recovery program at the Rainier Hotel – the only women’s treatment centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Beginning at 9AM, Tuesday December 18th the women of the Rainier, along with community supporters, will be walking 40 coffins from the Downtown Eastside 10km to the constituency office of Premier Christy Clark.
“The 40 women who rely on these treatment services were only given 5 days notice that the funding would be cut,” said CUPE Local 1004 member Lindsay Thompson who worked at the Rainier Hotel. Eight full time equivalent community mental health and addiction worker positions were lost as a result of the decision by Vancouver Coastal Health to end funding for the program on December 3rd. “The Rainier Hotel, one of the most innovative and successful addiction treatment facilities, has now been reduced to just a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Hotel.”
In February 2009, the BC Government announced the opening of the Rainier Women’s Treatment Program with an investment of $9.5 million to buy and renovate the Downtown Eastside heritage hotel and a one-time $5 million contribution from Health Canada. Vancouver Coastal Health’s commitment was to provide the ongoing operational funding.
“VCH broke their commitment to these women,” said Thompson, whose work at the Rainier involved providing access to comprehensive, regular and consistent health care, relapse prevention, and informal programs such as knitting, yoga, writing and morning walks. “It’s devastating to see the heart and soul callously ripped out of this program. There is nothing like the Rainier anywhere for these women, and they will suffer as a result of this cut.”
A surprise for many in the community that the unique Rainier program was cut right before Christmas and amidst attention to sex trade working women, the Pickton inquiry, and the ongoing need for more detox and recovery programs, supporters hope that Tuesday’s walk will urge Premier Clark to reverse the VCH funding cut.
“It’s a no brainer to support the Rainier,” said CUPE BC President Barry O’Neill. “We are talking about such a small amount of money that means so much in the lives of the women living there now, and the women in the future who could benefit from this vital program. I am sure Premier Clark will listen to their plea and do the right thing by keeping this important work in our community going.”
The Right to Recovery Walk will begin at the Rainier Hotel at 309 Carrall St. at 9AM and stop at VCH offices at 520 W. 6th and 601 W. Broadway, before continuing to MLA Margaret MacDiarmid’s office at 104-1245 W. Broadway and concluding at Premier Christy Clark’s constituency office at 3615 W 4th at 2:00PM.