Fighting for Space

Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction is published by Arsenal Pulp Press.

In the United States, order now via Amazon, Target, or Barnes & Noble. (U.S. release June 2018.)
In Canada, order via, Chapters Indigo, or directly from the publisher.

The grassroots story of a revolutionary approach to drug addiction that is saving lives.

While North America is in the grips of a drug epidemic, Fighting for Space explains the concept of harm reduction as a crucial component of a city’s response to the crisis.

It tells the story of a grassroots group of drug users in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who waged a political street fight for two decades to transform how the city treats its most marginalized citizens. Fighting for Space follows the lives of two women—Liz Evans, who founded the Portland Hotel Society, and Ann Livingston, who co-founded the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users—and the extraordinary lengths they went to help their community weather a crisis.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, this group of residents from Canada’s poorest neighbourhood organized themselves in response to a growing number of overdose deaths and demanded that addicts be given the same rights as any other citizen.

But just as their battle came to an end, fentanyl arrived and opioid deaths across North America reached an all-time high.

It’s prompted many to rethink the war on drugs. Public opinion has slowly begun to turn against prohibition, and policy-makers are finally beginning to look at addiction as a health issue as opposed to one for the criminal justice system.

The previous epidemic in Vancouver sparked government action. Twenty years later, as the same pattern plays out in other cities, there is much that advocates for reform can learn from Vancouver’s experience. Fighting for Space tells that story, with the same passionate fervor as the activists whose tireless work gave dignity to addicts and saved countless lives.


“The story of the Downtown Eastside is one of the most inspiring, moving, and enraging stories of our time. This beautiful and haunting book finally does it justice. This is essential history―and it isn’t over.” ― Johann Hari, author, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War On Drugs.

“Part social history and part community organizing manual, Fighting for Space details the decade-long fight to establish North America’s first medically managed site for injection drug users. It’s an amazing, inspiring, and sometimes-harrowing read.”― Eleanor J. Bader, the Los Angeles Review of Books. (Continue reading.)

“A chilling update on the most drug-ravaged sectors of North America….An intense, riveting report on a public health crisis and a network of heroes on the front lines.”  ― Kirkus Reviews, starred. (Continue reading.)

“Travis Lupick has covered the overdose crisis from its earliest stages, and he’s done so with passion and compassion. His articles have helped push an invisible health crisis into the spotlight, and forced public-health officials, policy-makers, and politicians to act. In Fighting for Space, Lupick expands and enriches his journalistic work with much needed context, helping readers understand how and why the overdose crisis occurred, why cities like Vancouver are hit particularly hard, and why even the skeptical have come to embrace harm reduction. But perhaps his greatest achievement is that this is ultimately an uplifting tale about a community, the Downtown Eastside, kept alive by street-level heroes.  Other cities in the grips of the opioids crisis can, and should, learn from their stories.” ― André Picard, health columnist, the Globe and Mail; author, Matters of Life and Death: Public Health Issues in Canada.

Fighting for Space is a colourful, fast-paced, well-researched account of the unique circumstances, tragic and inspiring events, and the courageously maverick characters that established Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside as North America’s harm-reduction capital. Also ranging across the continent, from Ohio to California to Florida, Travis Lupick’s fascinating book should help inform a more rational understanding of addictions treatment and drug policies everywhere.” ― Gabor Maté M.D., author, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction.

“This is an important book to read at a time when the opioid epidemic is killing a staggering number of people across North America. Travis Lupick expertly illustrates how the marginalized yet determined residents of Vancouver’s tiny Downtown Eastside fought for harm-reduction services that would ultimately save many lives―a crucial lesson other North American cities can learn during this deadly crisis.” ― Lori Culbert, the Vancouver Sun; author, A Thousand Dreams: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the Fight for its Future.

About the author

Travis Lupick is an award-winning journalist based in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the author of Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction (Arsenal Pulp Press, June 2018). He works as a staff reporter for the Georgia Straight newspaper and has also written about drug addiction, harm reduction, and mental health for the Los Angeles Times, Toronto Star, and Globe and Mail, among other outlets. For his reporting on Canada’s opioid crisis, Lupick received the Canadian Association of Journalists’ prestigious Don McGillivray award for best overall investigative report of 2016 and two 2017 Jack Webster awards for excellence in B.C. journalism. For Fighting for Space, he received the 2018 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature and nominations for the 2018 B.C. Book Awards and City of Vancouver Book Awards. He has also worked as a journalist in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Bhutan, Peru, and Honduras. Follow him on Twitter: @tlupick.

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