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Old June 1st, 2005, 01:06 PM   #1
C|2azyCanuck
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Beautiful Vancouver's Black Eye - The Downtown Eastside

After seeing G-Spot's thread on SSP about Canada’s poorest and most notorious postal code (can be seen here ) I felt compelled to get out on the street and bring to light what the real downtown east side of Vancouver is all about. Today I got that chance as I spent about three hours in the miserable weather walking up and down Hastings, Cordova, Main, and Carrall streets and all the alley’s that connect this dreary part of the city. The weather certainly fit the feelings I was experiencing while touring the area. I hope you all enjoy the tour. I had this thread in mind all afternoon while taking these pictures. Just a warning: Some of the pictures are a little disturbing.

The tour was a surreal experience. I knew the area was bad but had I no clue what I would witness as I walked down places where most would certainly fear to tread. I was never scared but did feel uncomfortable a couple of times. One uncomfortable moment came when a man, high on something, threatened me while holding onto a metal pipe at least 7 feet long. The other was while walking up an alley. A man staggered past me with a hypodermic sticking out of his arm while a group I just passed worked on what seemed to be a drug deal of some kind. I guess I took a few risks but I used good proxemics and was always aware of my egress routes if anything went awry. I was approached many times and asked if I wanted any heroin, if I needed a fix, and if I had any rocks or needed some. One woman asked me if I wanted a gummer as I walked by. Needless to say that was a little freaky. More than anything my tour of the DTES left me with a sad feeling. I deal with drug addicts everyday at work but to see it on the street was a whole new ballpark.


These first 10 pictures where snapped from my truck as I drove to the DTES from Vancouver's financial centre where my wife works.
























I parked at a newly renovated parkade in gastown. The 7th floor roof offered me some great views of the harbour looking north and of the city looking west.

















This would be the last of the aesthetically pleasing views as all it took was to head to the south side of the parkade roof to view this...

















The rest of the pictures are at street level as I began my walking tour of the area. The alleys reeked of a mixture of vermin, seagull and human feces. There is something in the works at city hall to install public toilets for the homeless as shop owners have been complaining about the health risks of using city streets as lavatories. I certainly concur.





















A hypodermic needle package. Many alleys were littered with them as well as the needles.







More street level pictures...Note the ambulances in a few pictures. Very rarely was there silence from the onslaught of wailing sirens.



























As I emerged from the first two blocks of this alley I came across a newer condo building which offered a quick oasis to the grim setting I was encountering. It was gated of course.









The presence of the VPD was very strong in the area. Not a minute went by when a cruiser was not in my sights except when traversing through the alleys. The corner of Main and Cordova is home to the city's second largest PD station as well as Van Jail. As I went up the next alley a man started to relieve himself right onto the road as I walked by. 15 seconds later I heard to whoop of police sirens and looked back to see two VPD officers detaining him. I'm guessing a night in the tank was on the bill for him. At least there would be a toilet in there.











Back on the main drag, Hastings Street, I am able to show you how two completely different communities share close proximity in the area. A Chinese market a few blocks east of Main Street shows how neighbouring Chinatown directly connects to the DTES. On the north side the DTES shares it's border with one of Vancouver's larger tourist attractions in Gastown.





The following are from Hastings Street. One of the four major routes from the freeway into the downtown core. Those who rarely head into town must be intrigued when entering this way. Usually there is three times the amount of people on the streets here but the rain had driven them to find shelter.



























Back into the alleys I went. I encountered several addicts shooting up but had to choose where I would take pictures very carefully.





















An interesting picture that was posted at various locations in the DTES. Certainly speaks the truth...





Most of the alleys were littered with hypodermics. I walked across this vacant lot but carefully watched every step. The last thing I need is to be pricked by one of these things.











Back out onto the street.













The infamous Pigeon Park.












Earlier I mentioned how the DTES borders a popular tourist section of the city to the north. This is Cordova Street at Carrall Street, a segway from the DTES to Gastown.










And with that, back into the alleys I would venture one more time.







































At this point it started to pour and I didn't notice the drop on my lens until I had passed this vacant lot.















One of the last residents I encountered was a man who was very distraught and from all signs extremely high on something. He was carrying a metal pipe about seven or eight feet long and was swinging wildly at the side of an aluminum fence while yelling at the top of his lungs. It seems as though he was calling for someone to come out and face him, yelling "you ******* rat, get out here" many times. I snapped a few shots as I slowly walked further away from him. By the last shot I was made and he screamed,"Don't take my picture or I'll **** you up!" At this point I made a hasty retreat through a vacant lot over to Cordova Street and called it a day.








This concludes my photo tour of Vancouver's ominous black eye. In all honesty I left feeling a little distraught, witnessing more than I had planned. I have seen things at work that would be considered worse but to see it happen on the street in broad daylight was a definite eye opener.

It will be interesting to see how Mayor Larry Campbell's four pillar approach to the issues plaguing the DTES play out over the next 5 years leading up to the Olympic Games, if he remains in office. If all goes according to plan it won't be too long before I could be out there on a daily basis keeping the peace and hopefully effecting change in some of the lives that are being destroyed by addiction, poverty and homelessness.



Map showing where most of my exploring took place. The arrows point to some of the major alleys I walked through.



Last edited by C|2azyCanuck; June 1st, 2005 at 01:12 PM.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 02:20 PM   #2
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Dispite the truth, those pictures are pretty cool
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Old June 1st, 2005, 02:21 PM   #3
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holy f**king shitballs.

can you link to a bigger map of where this area is so I don't mistakably stumble upon this place next year?

what an eye-opener.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 02:29 PM   #4
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We luv'ed your work, C|2azyCanuck, Keep on sending.

BTW - Shooting some trash pics is good. Trash is a fact in EVERY urban Scape.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 04:26 PM   #5
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so, did you get the gummer or what?

seriously, thanks for the great photo tour. You did take a few risks... don't do it again! My god, that dude with the pipe could have messed you up.

DTES defies all explanation, as far as I can see. In Vancouver, of all places. There is nothing in the rest of Canada that compares... Brantford Ontario has a boarded-up downtown, but there's no rampant drug or poverty problem. I've lived in a notorious neighbourhood in Toronto, and have visited the worst parts of it (work related)... none of it touches what I see in some of these photos (though, to be fair, TO did technically have a shantytown slum a few years back). Theres nothing wrong with grit, every city has it. Alot of those pics illustrate urbanity in it's utilitarian, honest glory. But this is something far worse.

again, great pics.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 06:19 PM   #6
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Great pics! Walking through this part of Vancouver is like stepping into another world. I remember on my last visit to Vancouver I was threatened by a homeless man after I snapped a picture of his alley. He actually tried to grab my camera from me.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 06:36 PM   #7
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great thread.

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Old June 1st, 2005, 06:41 PM   #8
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such potential in some areas of hastings....beautiful old buildings ripe for lofts...10 more years i guess.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 06:44 PM   #9
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Thanks for the replies. When compared to the rest of the city and the rest of the country for that matter the DTES is definately something out of the twilight zone. I have always considered Vancouver to be one of the safest major urban centres in North America and still believe that today.

The interesting thing about the DTES is that the element there rarely spills too far out of that general area. Of course there is crime everywhere in the city, especially property, but most of the really agressive pan-handlers and rampant drug users tend to stay with-in that 4 block by 6 block area. Being such an outdoor oriented city makes most other areas in the downtown peninsula very busy with tourists and other city dwellers which in turn makes them unsuitable for most of the activities taking place in the DTES. It definately happens in other areas just not to this degree. I have found hypodermics in bushes close to the main trails in Stanley Park.


Zoomed out map of Downtown:


Last edited by C|2azyCanuck; June 1st, 2005 at 06:59 PM.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 06:56 PM   #10
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Quote:
The rest of the pictures are at street level as I began my walking tour of the area. The alleys reeked of a mixture of vermin, seagull and human feces. There is something in the works at city hall to install public toilets for the homeless as shop owners have been complaining about the health risks of using city streets as lavatories. I certainly concur.
hope you don't mind me posting a relevant article.

Looking to relieve an all-too-human problem

Vancouver hopes new high-tech bathrooms will stop streets from being used as a latrine
By JANE ARMSTRONG

Wednesday, June 1, 2005 Updated at 3:34 AM EDT

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Vancouver — To its endless embarrassment, Vancouver has a shameful problem you won't be seeing on any tourism brochures: In the shadows of snow-capped mountain peaks, mounds of human waste are piling up in downtown streets.

The problem has so alarmed civic officials that they have ordered a handful of pricey, public bathroom booths to be strategically placed in high-traffic downtown strips. It also plans to hire an urban anthropologist to track the mess and pinpoint the problem spots.

Public-health officials and business owners are also alarmed, saying the phenomenon reflects badly on the entire city.

"There are certain things that people are entitled to -- no more, no less," said Dave Jones, director of crime prevention services for the Vancouver Police Department.


"And access to a washroom in terms of human dignity is one of those things. If we want people to act like animals, then we should treat them like animals and make them go in the outdoors.

"If we want people to behave with dignity, we should give them the opportunity to have dignity. This is very undignified."

It's hoped the high-tech, self-cleaning bathrooms -- at up to $300,000 apiece -- will relieve the disturbing trend that has seen Vancouver streets, alleys and parking lots increasingly used as public latrines.

Experts said the city's homeless population, which has doubled in the past two years, combined with an intractable drug problem, are factors fuelling the problem.

Another reason is the dearth of free public bathrooms in downtown Vancouver. The city has just three, which are supervised by attendants, but they close at 6 p.m. After that, the options for downtown denizens are confined to bathrooms in clubs, restaurants and some gas stations.

And the homeless say most downtown establishments won't hand over the bathroom key unless a person makes a purchase.

"It's McDonald's or Tim Hortons, that's all there is," said one homeless man. Both restaurants make you buy something before opening their bathrooms, he noted.

The grey-haired man, who wouldn't give his name, said he uses a bathroom each morning at a downtown Skytrain station. He said he lived on the street for years and has learned to control himself. Drug users, he added, can't.

The lane, behind Granville Street, has been singled out by the Downtown Business Improvement Association as among the city's worst. The man pointed to the parking lot about 100 metres away, saying: "It's disgusting."

The corner of the parking lot was used as an outdoor toilet, although someone had sprinkled what appeared to be kitty litter over the foul mound.

An engineering consultant hired by the city of Vancouver said urban, public bathrooms are commonplace in Europe, but less popular in North America, where it's feared they pose a security threat.

Bob Ross said Vancouver's design must take into account the big population of drug users, especially in the city's Downtown Eastside.

One model, which is popular in Europe, is shaped like a phone booth and encased in glass. From the outside the glass is mirrored. From the inside however, the glass is transparent, which gives the impression to the user that people on the outside can see inside. The model is designed to prevent people from lingering.

Such a bathroom might inflame the paranoia of a mentally ill person, Mr. Ross said, adding Vancouver will likely go for a practical model, using a more durable stainless steel.

After each use, the bathroom cleans and dries every surface in the booth, similar to an automatic car wash.

"We know that there's lots of public toilets in big cities in Europe, and people point to the toilets in Sydney and Melbourne, and I've been there and I know that they're great," Mr. Ross said. "But I also know they don't have the kind of disorder that they have in the Downtown Eastside."
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Old June 1st, 2005, 07:03 PM   #11
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Man great tour through urban reality....glad you came out in one piece!
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Old June 1st, 2005, 08:52 PM   #12
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what an amazing photo essay... excellent work. I remember taking a wrong turn around Gastown and finding myself on East Hastings and like you said C|2azyCanuck, it was incredibly disturbing and surreal.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 09:08 PM   #13
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awesome pics n thread !!!
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Old June 2nd, 2005, 04:10 AM   #14
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Everybody keeps asking for a photo tour of the eastside, finally someone was brave enough! Great tour!
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Old June 2nd, 2005, 06:48 AM   #15
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Way to put your life on the line for SSC, and welcome to the forum!

Certainly a sad situation in such a city and country
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Old June 2nd, 2005, 07:15 AM   #16
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C|2azyCanuck, excellent tour!

If only all Canadians wake up, smell their morning coffee and get a chance to view your photo essay. Given that a dissproportionate percentage of Vancouver's drug addicts & homeless are from out of town (like SF, it's due to the mild weather), it's a prelude to what can happen all across Canada if the nation's homeless & drug problems are not dealt with properly.

Already, the problem is spreading West into downtown and WestEnd.

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Old June 2nd, 2005, 01:19 PM   #17
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The real shitty thing about the eastside is that something like 90percent of the homeless/drug users come from the northern parts of BC or the rest of Canada because the winters here are not that severe.Its kind of unfair for Vancouver to have to shelter such an unproportionate amount of street people when really they are other cities/towns problems.
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Old June 2nd, 2005, 05:06 PM   #18
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Just to put it in perspective, hoods that are in this condition exist in virtually every sizeable US city and they often cover huge swaths of town, not just a small area like in Vancouver.
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Old June 2nd, 2005, 06:09 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A42251
Just to put it in perspective, hoods that are in this condition exist in virtually every sizeable US city and they often cover huge swaths of town, not just a small area like in Vancouver.
I know this. My thread was never about comparison to US cities but rather showing that no matter how beautiful Vancouver may be it is still not without it's own problems. So many threads here and at SSP are always the same vancouver pictures. Skyline from Stanley Park, skyline from Queen Elizabeth Park, skyline from Broadway, mountainous backdrops, and oceanic backdrops. I felt it was time to see another side of the city. It won't be long before I'm back snapping and posting the classic pictures again.
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Old June 2nd, 2005, 07:10 PM   #20
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"holy f**king shitballs.

can you link to a bigger map of where this area is so I don't mistakably stumble upon this place next year?"

Its right in the middle of downtown and adjacent to gastown. It wasn't scary at all just sleazy and decrepit like Midtown Manhattan in the 70's. I highly recommend a walking tour. Pigeon Park is whacked or shall I say smacked. I did sample the BC bud though.
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