Lived experience helps inform Roxanne Smith’s role as a harm reduction worker at South Riverdale CHC.

The Stairs, a Toronto-shot documentary that presents a raw and honest picture of harm reduction efforts in the city’s Regent Park neighbourhood, is screening now at the TIFF Lightbox. On Wednesday, October 12, at 6:40 p.m., the film’s screening will be followed by a special panel discussion that includes Raffi Balian (program coordinator for COUNTERFit, which provides harm reduction services through South Riverdale CHC), Roxanne Smith (one of the doc’s subjects, and also a harm reduction worker at South Riverdale CHC), plus city councillors Gord Perks and Joe Cressy (city councils leads for Toronto’s drug strategy).

The documentary, which was shot over the course of five years, traces the origins, struggles, triumphs and involvement in harm reduction both personally and professionally of three people who use/used drugs in the Regent Park area. In addition to allowing the voices of an oft-ignored community to be heard relatively unfiltered, The Stairs makes the case for why harm reduction work embedded in an interprofessional primary care setting – with its connections to mental health, housing and employment services – can truly make a difference in people’s lives.

“People who understand the life experience of drug users, understand what it takes,” Smith told the audience at the film’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. “That’s why you let consumers build programs for consumers.”

The panel is set to discuss ongoing developments in harm reduction policies, the importance of the movement to include supervised injection services as part of the overall strategy, and the role of AOHC members in reducing the stigma and harm to individuals in Ontario who use drugs.

Check out this article in The Globe and Mail to learn more about the film’s director, Hugh Gibson, and one of the other harm reduction worker subjects of the film, Marty Thompson.

Here’s the trailer for The Stairs: