Vancouver’s Pit of Misery – the Downtown Eastside

Several days ago I was again in that pit of misery that is known as Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The reason, of all things, was to attend a chamber music concert of Mozart and Prokofiev at the Carnegie Centre, the former library of long ago, and, at one time, the home of the Museum of Vancouver, and now an epicentre of the district and for its inhabitants. One needs to compliment the musicians, all of them world-class, who played, phenomenally and gratis, to their small but attentive audience.

When I am in the Downtown Eastside I am constantly reminded of how little our society, and the City of Vancouver, does to help and support the destitute, the homeless, the poor, and the broken. I find the indifference impossible to reconcile with the massive consideration for greed that the City has provided developers who despoil this remarkable city, beginning especially with the project that began as Expo 86 and continued with the highrise towers of condominiums built by Concord Pacific that now colonize the area by False Creek. There are exceptions to this indifference, the Carnegie Community Centre itself, the YMCA, the YWCA, the Vancouver Public Library, the Salvation Army, the paramedics, and other agencies and organizations. But the situation remains overwhelming.

I include in this brief commentary photographs taken from the seven blocks along East Hastings, from Columbia to Hawks, I had time to walk once again. If one takes a brief walk such as this, what will be encountered are these. Crushing poverty and deprivation. Mental instability. Lack of sanitation. Tents on sidewalks. Abandoned small businesses. Young women selling their bodies. Junkies shooting up in doorways. Scavenging in garbage to eat what remains on used paper plates. Physical collapse. Single room occupancy hotels. Sales of rubbish to make a few dollars. Burnt-out landmarks. Bars soliciting customers for cheap drinks and amnesia. Medical collapse. Utter loss of hope.

And the mountains in the distance. And the trees that remain and have come into bloom.


2 thoughts on “Vancouver’s Pit of Misery – the Downtown Eastside

  1. The Secwepemc people are specifically acknowledged in the VPL library branch on East Hastings, and were amongst those given thanks by the musicians for their good fortune to be able to live on unceded lands.


  2. Yes, thank you. If I had the misfortune of living in Vancouver, this is where I would spend my time. The city’s story and life is here. You know there have been, traditionally, more Secwepemc people from tsq’escenemc in the DTE than back home on the reserve in the Cariboo? (Hopefully, this statistic has improved in the last decade. Mind you, the reserve is full.) A huge story, concerning all British Columbians and all Earth People. Thanks.


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