Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

A recent trip through the Downtown East Side of Vancouver suddenly brought awareness to the issues that are present in our own backyard. While more and more organizations are formed to aid global issues, which are incredibly valuable, the youth of this generation seems to be less acquainted with cases in which progress can be made directly, and does not require an expensive airplane ticket.

As our footsteps trekked on East Hastings Street, I couldn’t help but have the idea in my head that I felt uncomfortable and out of place. My assumptions were that you could never prepare yourself for the things you see each time you make a trip through the back alleyways, or if a fight would suddenly break out. These impressions soon disappeared as I started talking to the citizens, who told stories about their families, their plans for the future and why and how they ended up in the city of Vancouver. The majority of those that I spoke to were genuinely kind-hearted people that wanted nothing more than to escape the impoverishment that they’ve been trapped in for years.

The highly stigmatized society situated in the beautiful city of Vancouver is filled with people that are constantly pushed around, in and out of homes, lacking proper healthcare. Filled with people who are deficient in finances, shelter and wellness, but also voices as well. While it does seem like their homes once you step into the market region, the land that they live on is controlled by the government, or those in upper economic classes who habitually pay little attention to the needs of the people. Little development is made, and the citizens of the area can do little themselves due to lack of support.

One drastic change that has been made has been the gentrification of Vancouver’s East Side. Companies built new high-rises and beautiful residential buildings in areas that people used to avoid, thus recreating the Woodward’s area with high-end retail shops and spas. Perhaps this has beautified the neighbourhood, but those who cannot afford to live in the new residents are forced to move away. At the same time, the development of edifices such as the SFU Woodward’s Campus may increase the rate of poverty eradication. In the end, there are always positives and negatives to everything that is done, any change that is made.

In any case, it’s important to be educated about the immediate world around you, and not to make assumptions on a certain topic from one source. Explore somewhere that you’ve never considered visiting before and try to grasp a better understanding on your local community; you may be surprised on what you’d find out.