Frankfurt, Germany –

An Intelligent Approach To Drug Misuse

In June, 1999, the Social Planning Department of the City of Vancouver published a report by Donald MacPherson called Comprehensive Systems Of Care For Drug Users in Switzerland And Frankfurt, Germany. In the last Carnegie Newsletter (Sept.l/99) we presented Donald’s insights into harm reduction programs in Switzerland. In this article we will talk about the harm reduction programs Donald saw at first hand in Frankfurt, Germany.

From 1989 to 1999 the City of Frankfurt has developed a drug control program that has led to a dramatic reduction in crime and a dramatic improvement in the health of drug users in the inner city.

By the late 1980’s there was a large, open, street drug scene in Frankfurt. The HIV rate among intravenous drug users was about 25%, and the overdose death rate climbed from 31 in 1965 to 147 in 1991. Efforts to control the drug scene with police power had very little success.

In 1989, Frankfurt created the position of Drug Policy Coordinator, and a lot of effort went into coordinating an intelligent response to the horrendous drug scene. City, Health, Justice Department, Social Service, Housing and Police workers co-operated together on a consistent basis. The downtown business people, who were concerned about the tourist trade, pushed hard for a coordinated approach, and even funded some of the initial steps to develop the plan.

Methadone programs were expanded, and Frankfurt built an additional 300 shelter beds for drug users, 6 multi-service crisis centres, an expanded needle exchange, and more harm reduction education programs. The City of Frankfurt also hired more outreach workers, and operated work training programs for users.

The police cracked down on the open drug scene, and gave maps to users so they could find the new services.

Between l994 and 1996, Frankfurt established 5 safe injection sites (health rooms) which helped to diminish the street drug scene and brought users into contact with health services. By 1997 there were only 12 overdose deaths in Frankfurt, and there has not been one fatal overdose in the health rooms in the city since they were established.

Harm reduction programs, with enlightened police enforcement, reduced crime significantly in Frankfurt’s inner city from 1991 to 1991. Theft from cars was reduced by 36%, break-ins to apartments was reduced by 13%. Grievous bodily harm was reduced by 19%. Police registered, first time consumers of hard drugs was reduced by 39%. As users moved into harm reduction services, police were more easily able to separate addicted from non-addicted dealers. Some dealers moved to other cities, and the drug scene became less concentrated in Frankfurt. From 1994 to 1997, drug related cases in the courts had dropped by 15%.

The Frankfurt program has met both the objectives of improving public health and increasing public safety for all citizens in the central city. the program has been put in place without major changes in the national drug laws, and without a major increase in the cost of policing. It has had the full support of both the police and the business people. We in British Columbia need to learn from this intelligent drug control program.

By Sandy Cameron

to be continued

Talk about others and you’re a gossip; talk about yourself and you’re a bore.

Joe Paul



To be outcast within one’s Family is fine, but when you’re ignored for whatever you do by your co-workers it brings a feeling of abandonment.

One walks through life being nice, doing your best to others.. no. it’s not worth it. The knife can only be stabbed in your back so many times until your spirit dies.

I do not belong. I was raised as a ‘black sheep’; unfortunately, I continue to be treated as one – part of the wall.

[submitted anonymously]


bio sphere

Interviewer - Rudolf Penner


INT: Cole, what have you been up to lately?

COLE: Right now I'm mainly learning how to use the video camera, things about light, how to talk people into doing things for free (laughs).

INT: I've seen you walking around Carnegie with that video camera and stuff. Have you shot any film down here?

COLE: I did a test run in the Carnegie Theatre and the light is very particular; to get any kind of picture at all you have to have all the lights on, all the house lights on...

INT: You mean like in the Theatre?

COLE: In the theatre, ya. And like there's a thing with video: with different sources of light there's different colour temperatures apparently, and if you have two sources of light, with two different colour temperatures it can play havoc with your picture

INT: So would you say an outside light, natural light, is a different temperature than the lights in the theatre?

COLE: Ya. Usually.

INT: So what are you going to do with this once you know more about it?

COLE: I'll be able to record myself playing music or other people playing music, and maybe be able to make some underground films. Right now I'm telling people that I will record their (preferably original) material.

INT: So you're going to learn from your mistakes and from what you do?

COLE: Right.

INT: You used to be into computers quite a bit. COLE: Well I still am. I think maybe once I've learned the use of the cameras, then I'll be able to transfer my skills to the digital equipment.

INT: So is there a digital moving film or camera or something?

COLE: Well you can already get the add-on card that you plug into the computer, and then you hook your regular video camera, to the card, and then, with the right software and enough memory or storage capabilities, then you can video tape onto the computer. The technology is advancing, so by the time they settle down to a standard, I'll be ready to convert to using the digital.

INT: How do you find living down in the Downtown Eastside?

COLE: Well it's ok when I'm not out walkin' around, but when I'm out walkin' around it's kinda depressing....(laughs) ...See, there's all these people; it's not funny and it's really sad, but you know sometimes you have to joke a little bit about it so that you don't walk around crying your eyes out when you, I call them 'the walking dead' …

INT: I recently heard that the Vancouver Board of Trade has this great vision for people down here, to make them 'self-sufficient' and all this. What do you think of something like that?

COLE: Well I think there's quite a bit of conflict there. The City has these bylaws where there'll be people out on Commercial trying to sell things they pulled out of dumpsters and then the police come along and give them fines, right?

INT: They seem to be really afraid of not getting enough taxes or something.

COLE: That's probably the bottom line. And so, I have my doubts about anything they say about making opportunities for people like that until they change their attitude on entrepreneurial things like people selling their art on the street They'll say, OK, well we'll put out these permits, Someone was busking and the City said they had the busking permits available. Sent in his money. $75. And this was a couple of years ago when they came up with the permits. He sent his money in in April or May. I talked to him in July or August and he still hadn't got his permit. But he'd been harassed by the police several times, right, and, you know, like so, I'm not impressed, and it'll take a lot to impress me after what I've seen.

Carnegie Street Program

The Street Program idea began about 2 years ago as the media moniker "largest open-air drug mark-et in North America" started to accompany other stories describing the Downtown Eastside as the armpit of BC. Knee-jerk reactions have ranged from mass arrests – everybody on the corner at a given time is automatically criminal – to calls for Carnegie to become this huge refuge with anyone allowed in to do anything they please.. coffee and phones free, too!

In between, and while the extremes continue, are the practical and hopeful. Reps from agencies and groups having direct input on the street, and those who deal with a lot of the people and problems associated with it, came to a meeting in Carnegie to talk – to comment on what’s there, not there (and maybe should be) and to see what support there is when it comes time to go back to the City for renewal of funding.

The meeting started with a description of what can be seen on a daily basis: tables set up on the sidewalk at the bottom of the steps, canopies over head rain or shine, people playing chess, checkers and crib; along the north side there may be health info on AIDS, Hep A.B.C, STDs, aromatherapy, street nurses, condoms, book giveaways.. and in the area on the east side there are circle jams without electric, crafts, art, portrait drawing… ! The corner at Main & Hastings is not the centre of the universe, but the scene outside is still ripe to be the scapegoat for anything. Dealing and fixing and tweaking continue, with people waiting for buses, passersby, the constant flow of in & out to Carnegie and smokers doing their thing.

Street Program staff strive to treat individuals with respect for difference. Safety is paramount but every situation has to get assessed while it’s happening. They constantly do referrals for those needing help with anything from welfare to health to finding a place or just space. Some activities get instant volunteers – like cleaning an area or sweeping or just plowing litter – and it can be for 5 minutes or half an hour, depending. The basics are sharing this space with an eye to harm reduction and other uses besides trafficking and drug-related activity.


Response – We’ve gone to different places for a day or an afternoon, and people here ask right away where we were. This is what the City needs to hear when we ask for the program to continue and even expand.

Only consultation with the Needle Exchange Advisory Board could give an answer to that.. They have the experience and practical knowledge on the advantages and disadvantages

Leith Harris, resident

We do referrals. Acting as direct advocates or social workers for individuals can easily take half a day per person. The police need to do a lot more in public relations, but are part of anything on the street.

Each organisation needs to do outreach, but can’t spare staff to be at tables for hours. The program staff are in touch with DERA, DEYAS, VANDU, SOS, the street nurses, Native Health, Consumer’s Board, Women’s Centre and others. Agendas and philosophies differ, but harm reduction seems to be a common plan.

There was one group at the meeting who gushed about their ‘ministry’ finding the corner a ready-made scene for "doing service". Buzzwords were bandied about and silent (and some not-so-silent) groans echoed. "Treating these people as human beings.. everyone deserves a helping hand up.. we have volunteers standing ready to assist every soul

– and so on. Proselytizing evangelicals weasel in..


Lore Krill became a resident of the Downtown Eastside in 1986 as a single mom with 3 kids. It was at the Four Sisters Co-op. Stable housing worked its magic and her talents as an organizer and doer found expression with several years as President. She went on, helping to found the PRIDE Centre, Main & Hastings Community Development Society, Four Corners Community Savings and Bruce Eriksen Place. It was never a one-woman show; it was having commitments and goals. Lore struggled with many in our community to get decent housing for all. She passed away in April, not yet 40.

Jim O’Dea was Master of Ceremonies, saying that he’d just returned from China, where the former city-state of Hong Kong builds up to 95,000 units of public housing a year, and has concrete plans to house all poor people by 2003.

It was with great excitement that Moe Sihota. Minister of Social Development and Economic Security, announced a HOMES BC project from the courtyard of the Four Sisters Co-op. The Lore Krill Housing Co-op is made up of two separate buildings, one at 65 W. Cordova with 106 suites for urban singles, costing $12.9 million, and one at 223 E. Georgia with 97 units for seniors and families, costing $15.4 million. "These are the first two co-op housing projects in the Downtown Eastside that the provincial government has ever taken the lead in funding," Sihota said. He also said that poor people have a right to the dignity and values that the more affluent take for granted.

Moe introduced Jenny Kwan, the MLA for Vancouver-Mt Pleasant and Minister of Women’s Equality. Jenny began her community work at DERA and then went into civic politics. "Safe, affordable housing is a right, not a privilege, and we need more options for people in the Down-town Eastside." She referred to the housing in the neighbourhood that begins to answer the need – Four Sisters being a model for changing minds about families being housed here – but knowing and urging the federal government to make the crucial commitment it opted out of in 1992. Echoing mandates of the draft Vancouver Agreement, Kwan called for all 3 levels of government to work together with the local community (and not try to impose what’s opposed by the grassroots).

The prepared remarks of Phil Owen were, thank-fully, just on paper as Acting Mayor Nancy Chia-vario spoke for the City of Vancouver. It was refreshing to hear an NPA councilor acknowledge that SRO hotels are not adequate housing.. that they are only a last stop before becoming home-less. Nancy said, "It was with pride that we, from BC, could state (at a recent national meeting of municipalities) that we are one of only two provinces in Canada that has a government which still believes in the necessity of and promotes social housing." She went on to recognise poverty as the core issue under drug abuse, substance misuse, poor health and poor housing.

Marg Green is the President of the Woodward’s Co-op Committee. She and a number of others have been working with the hope of 200+ units of co-op housing since the days of Woodward’s [and the scam (that seems apparent) of Kassem Aghtai and FAMA Holdings. He gave the community the finger and sided with the degenerate classism of the Gastown Homeowners et al..(sorry, got carried away)] Marg named Muggs,, Kathleen, Eldon and Maggie, Mike, Leigh, Stephen and Jim of the Community Development Unit, Suzanne and Stuart of Terra Housing and Lore, again, working to make this new housing a reality. She referred to the constant vigilance needed to struggle with those promoting gentrification and the elimination of services used by the vast majority of residents.

The last speaker was Linda Shpikula, from the Co-op Housing Federation of BC, who welcomed the Lore Krill Housing Co-op as another victory for the community people who have gotten decent housing in the face of developers who want nothing to do with social or public housing. Linda described herself as a "low income urban single" – usually the last to get thought of as special needs places get funding and those in her ‘category’ are left to fend for themselves.

There will be more on how, where and when to

apply for a unit, but it’s happening!!


back to archive