The TORO Project

Tenant Overdose Response Organizers Project


Private Single Room Occupancy buildings (SROs) are home to thousands of residents in the Downtown Eastside (DTES), and have been the sites of multiple overdose deaths. Many privately-owned SROs are minimally staffed, not staffed 24 hours, or have staff who are not trained in First Aid or Overdose Response. The DTES SRO Collaborative Society employs Tenant Organizers in privately owned SROs to work on habitability and safety campaigns and to stop renovictions that cause homelessness. The Tenant Overdose Response Organizers (TORO) program uses a similar model, to prevent overdose deaths in private SROs.

With this program we have hired and trained fourteen TOROs – themselves residents of DTES hotels. Each of the fourteen privately owned SROs will have a TORO working in it, with two TOROs working at the largest hotels (Balmoral and Regent). TOROs will organize Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) Naloxone Trainings in those buildings, provide one-on-one Overdose Training to their peers, and communicate with VCH and the City of Vancouver about issues related to overdoses in those buildings.

As part of the program, TOROs will maintain a full selection of Harm Reduction supplies (needles, cookers, condoms, etc.) in dedicated containers in their own SRO rooms, and will distribute Harm Reduction supplies in their hotels.

The program will also include an Indigenous facilitator who will provide cultural and spiritual support to tenants, around addiction, grief, and loss.

This has been funded by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) since 2015, and has expanded its reach in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Smokey D.
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