There are plenty of homeless people on the streets of Vancouver. The reasons are obvious. In about 2 months time the temperatures in other major cities around the country will plummet and eventually reach around -35 degrees Celcius. I met a chap in Edmonton who was camping out in the park. I actually don’t remember meeting him though. A few pints too many at the Sherlock Holmes pub one night after work, I stumbled home and thought I’d just gone straight to bed. On examining my camera the next morning, it turned out that, as I walked through the park back to my flat, I’d managed to interview a tramp.
Anyway, said tramp does camp out in Edmonton during the winter. He told me that he pitches a tent, puts blankets over the top and makes a fire. It’s pretty harsh and a lot of homeless leave when they can to go west to Vancouver, where the climate is moderate (much like the UK).
So this has resulted in a homeless community who reside in a small area just to the East of Vancouver town centre. It’s known as the Downtown East Side. My first encounter with the area was during my first week in the city, when I had a job interview at a place not far from there. I’d been warned about it by friends but nothing really prepared my for seeing it.
One minute you are walking along a typical Vancouver street, clean and quiet. You cross one block and suddenly the pavement is crowded with homeless, prostitutes, drug addicts, pimps, and the mentally disabled. It’s so crowded you can’t even walk along there. Imagine Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon.
During the Olympic Games earlier this year, the Canadian authorities tried to ‘clean up’ the area by opening new shelters to get people off the streets. This worked to an extent, but what they found is that many of the people had lived in the area so long, they quite liked the fact that they were part of a community, and able to get by without mortgages and the stresses that they bring. So moving them out proved a little more difficult than planned. Now the Games are a distant memory, the place is back to its usual crowded self.
We’ve spent the last few weeks living very close to Granville Street, which is the centre of nightlife in Downtown Vancouver. Many of the Downtown East Side residents make their way along there to beg, busk and hang out. They are definitely part of the scene along the strip, despite their situation, and make the best of it.
Bedding down for the night
Travelling. Debit card snapped. Only need food
$1 short of taking over the world
Parents killed by Ninjas. Need money for karate lessons.