Yaletown overdose prevention site honours murdered harm-reduction work

"Thomus Donaghy” that’s the name of a new overdose prevention site in Vancouver's Yaletown neighbourhood. As @AshleyBurr_ explains, it’s a tribute for a harm-reduction worker who was murdered on the job last year.

VANCOUVER (CityNews) — A Yaletown overdose prevention site is renaming the site to pay tribute to a harm-reduction worker who was murdered on the job last year.

Thomus Donaghy worked in Vancouver and helped establish the city’s overdose prevention sites in 2016.

In July, Donaghy was stabbed while on duty at the overdose prevention site at a location beside St. Paul’s Hospital and later died from his injuries.

Sarah Blyth works with the Overdose Prevention Society and worked with Donaghy. She says he was responsible for saving hundreds of lives through his work.

“He saved a lot of lives that way just on his own and just as a volunteer knowing it got to him the fact that people could be in alleys dying and he really did care and was compassionate in a way you don’t see a lot of people doing,” Blyth tells CityNews.

RELATED: Mural dedicated to murdered harm-reduction worker painted over; community demanding answers

The overdose prevention site at the corner of Seymour and Helmcken opened on March 1, and community advocates say they can’t imagine a better name for the Yaletown location as they continue to grieve.

Karen Ward, a drug policy advisor for the City of Vancouver, says the tribute is fitting adding she still misses Donaghy and says he would be proud to see another site open that can save lives.

“People aren’t going to be using outside because now they use inside it’s the solution for that — just like housing is the solution for homelessness — if people are using outside bring them inside. That’s going to form a connection slowly with people where they can get connected with other things, like housing, healthcare and jobs,” she explains.

Last year B.C. had its deadliest year on record for drug overdoses. In 2020, 1,716 people died, a 74 per cent increase over 2019.

Blyth says she and her colleagues are exhausted.

“What we are going through right now it’s almost everyday a new person has passed on and it’s pretty unbearable to wake up with,” she says.

According to Ward, there are plans to create a permanent sign at the Yaletown Overdose Prevention site to honour Donaghy and his legacy.

A 23-year-old man from Victoria was arrested and charged with manslaughter in Donaghy’s death.

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