Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Downtown East Side, Vancouver's dark side:
Today's post will be a little different. A few photos with a few annotations. On all of my previous postings I have given you a glimpse using Tourist eyes. Places that I want to see when you visit my town and also to record places I have been in the Pacific North West, sort of a documentation of my adventures to out of the way places. Consider this a photo essay without much written substance. I am not political. I do not wish to enter into discussions involving religion(s), points of view nor argue about who is right or what has to be done. This is the Canadian way, we just sit back and accept what it is and mumble under our breath about how things should be. Our drug laws are too lax, we do not enforce them as viciously as they do south of the border. We have a big gang problem here somehow interconnected with the Mexican cartels. Drug dealers are being killed weekly, bodies are found dumped on the streets, then we have the 2010 Olympics where they are trying to hide the homeless from public view. It's a mess . . .
I wasn't sure how I was going to present this but I had been thinking about this for some time and recently I was prompted by a comment from Michael (Key West Diary) (<-- click link)
Conchscooter said: (comment of October 11, 2009)
Quote: "By the way where are all the freedom loving people living in cars and on the sidewalks? Jeez, Key West this surely isn't...."
Let me first give you some background:
Quote: "Sending the homeless out of town might not be official policy, but with the 2010 Olympics looming, some worry it will be the ticket to cleaning up the Dante-like stretch of Vancouver known as the Downtown Eastside.
Every major city in Canada has destitute people, but nowhere are they concentrated in such a harrowing display of human desperation as in Vancouver, where a dense neighbourhood of junkies, streetwalkers and mentally ill people openly challenges British Columbia's licence-plate slogan, “The Best Place on Earth.” The area is a 10-minute stroll from the site designated as the Olympics' international media centre."
You can read the complete article here:
The Downtown East Side of Vancouver straddles an area adjacent to Strathcona, one of the oldest areas of Vancouver
(Strathcona elementary school)
It was a grand area, once the premier area of the city with ornate buildings
(notice the bars)
It is a contradition of values. Drug dealers, homeless, artists and includes ordinary people just trying to make a living. while many homes have deteriorated and on their last legs
(Vancouver's Conch style housing)
many others have purchased into the area and restored their homes to better than new condition while retaining the character of times past
(typical period homes)
Others prefer to live in their townhome surrounded by chain link fence complete with barbed wire as a prisoner confined to their cell, while the criminals are allowed to roam around unencumbered.
The hub and epicentre of drug activity is centred on the intersections of Main & Hastings Street and compasses the poorest postal code in Canada which runs for 10 blocks west to Victory Square. It is not an area to frequent during the darkness of night and preferrably not by yourself even during the day. The "residents" do not take kindly to images of their likeness so taking covert photos was the priority of the day. I was not able to capture all of the images that I would have liked and feared that someone would notice a large camera with a longer lens. I opted for my small palm sized one and tried to hide it best as I was able. I used to do a lot of street photography down in this area years ago when some of the pawn shops were still operating and stopped when we perceived that it was too dangerous. The "bad dudes" (for lack of a better word) have an excellent radar system. They are able to immediately spot people who do not belong. I thought I was doing well during the torrential rain all bundled up in my Gortex Jacket and hat and someone came up to me with a sports bag and asked me if I was interested in a Video Camera. He opened his bag a bit so I could take a peek at it so obviously I wasn't as covert as I thought. The police started to enforce some by-law rules last year in anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympics and just managed to move the drug dealers to another area farther west into some of the tourist areas of Granville Street and very close to Sunset Beach. I see them camped out in the lane with their garbage bag tents and cardboard mattresses but I didn't have the nerve to snap any photos. There are dozens of them and only one of me, and I didn't want to damage my handsome physique.
I can't post all of the photos here so have only selected a dozen or so. If you wish to view the whole set, just click on one photo and it will take you to the album hosted on Webshots. You should really avoid this area if you are visiting Vancouver. Whenever we see people who who obviously don't belong we try to steer them in the other direction. This "forbidden" zone is only one block north of Historic Chinatown and one block south of Historic Gastown and only one wrong left turn from the cruise ship terminal so you can see that it is very easy to stumble into this area by accident.
Every business has steel bars for security
(watch out for used needles discarded on the sidewalk)
(keeping out of the rain, in the bus shelter)
(living on the street)
(The Only: once the best seafood cafe in Vancouver)
(Carnegie Centre, once the best library in town)
(Insite: safe injection site government sponsored)
(even this temple is behind bars)
Strathcona and the Downtown Eastside: a contraction of old and new, of crooks, thieves, drug dealers and ordinary people living side by side trying to survive -- one day at a time. Be careful where you park, monitor your surroundings and don't go alone