Downtown Vancouver. It was certainly an experience. I generally love visiting all areas of a city. In Vancouver, Downtown consists of the lower end of the city, China town and other surrounding areas like East Hastings, Eastside Down town Vancouver.
Starting with the homeless problem. There are approx 2,700 homeless people in Vancouver that associate with either being Relative, or absolute homeless. The main cause of the rapid increase of homelessness was due to the housing market price increase and also lack of income. Talking with some locals however, I was informed that the homeless issue has increased since the year 2000. Apparently in trying to clean up some other Canadian areas, the government issued a whole stack of homeless people a one way ticket to Vancouver so that they could survive in the outside areas in a warmer environment. The west side of Canada is a lot warmer than the rest of Canada that basically freezes in Winter.
The whole homeless population has overtaken eastside downtown, specifically on East Hastings Street. I accidentally ended up on the corner innocently taking photos of what I thought was interesting human interaction shots, and groups of people lingering around an area. The next minute I am approached by some obvious mentally challenged people that were eager to volunteer to get their photo taken. I start to look around and notice hundreds of people looking at me wandering what the hell I was doing with a camera on their street. I quickly put my camera away however this did not mean their eyes stopped following my every move. I slowly played the tourist card, looking around, and looking at the fastest way to get the hell out of there before getting rolled. As I start to walk away, a man approached me asking me to hold on. Taking a deep breath, heart racing, I innocently turn and smile, welcoming his approach. He asked what I was doing and at that moment, I am glad i had a strong Aussie accent to which I replied “I’m just a tourist mate, taking photos. I can see that the people here don’t like that much right?”
Thank God he smirked and kindly informed me that most of the people on the street were alcoholics and took drugs and they wanted to make sure I wasn’t a cop, or snitch trying to catch them out. I told him I was an Aussie and he basically wished me a good trip and ‘Hasta La Vista’, I was out of there.
Curiosity killed the cat Right?? So at this stage, I wanted to now check it out more, without my camera in their face this time, so I stopped and got dumplings in the local Chinese shop called Jade Dynasty which was recommended and they were really good. Some quick pics of the shop and the shrimp dumplings I had.
After that, I walked to the other end of the street and decided to walk along it and get amongst the homeless on the street. I stood out like a sore thumb, however I figured if I just walked quickly and just took in everything i could see and feel, that would give me a good feeling of what people were there.
The fact that these people stick together in big groups and hang out together is a good thing for themselves and company, however, most of the people I saw, were mentally ill or clearly doing drug deals, or more so, trying to ask for money to get their next hit. The concerning part was seeing a a few teenage faces in the crowd. It is sad to know how most of society can sleep peacefully at night with a roof over their head, but these people just stay continuously on the street. Even if the mentally ill people were put into housing, they would stand out and it would be a matter of time before the police were could to settle them down etc. It is always a hard solution dealing with mental illness as well as homeless and drugs etc. The crime rate in this area is also a big concern and it was only a matter of time before I saw cop cars speeding into the area.
Below are some pics of the street adjacent to East Hastings. There is a mural of some great artwork and directly opposite, some locals hanging in the laneways.
After getting the buzz of experiencing the homeless situation, I wanted to check out China Town a little more and went to the Chinese Botanical Gardens. They were small compared to what we have set up in Sydney but the small amount of garden they do have was pretty. The guy let me in for $5 because I only had half an hour to go. That was more than enough time to see the whole thing and capture it on camera. I love how detailed the Chinese are when they build things. It makes me realize how traditional and passionate they are as a race. What was really cool about the gardens is when you walk to the back end, there is a calligraphy section where they have drawing ink set up and these special drawing boards with symbols displayed. You can take a seat and try and draw the symbol you see with various symbols varying in degree of difficulty. I loved trying this because I had never done it before. It wasn’t long before I realized how precise the Chinese are when writing. Each stroke takes a certain amount of ink, pressure and precision to create the symbol beautifully. I attempted but I think I turned Chinese symbols into a two year old garbage diagram of what they think it should look like. Terrible. I am sure I would improve in time, but really, I sucked at it.
The local downtown Chinese Shop
I don’t know how much more a shop keeper can fit into their shop. I love shops like this cause i find them full of stuff i don’t see everyday and occasionally you spot something that is worth the look.