Friday, 22 February 2013

Hey brother, can you spare a dime? What happens when change comes to the Downtown Eastside?

  You've got your standard Downtown Eastside..

and then you've got your gentrified.

AAAAAAAND that's the thing everybody's talking about, that special time when pusher comes to shove.
Here's a picture of what the CBC calls "the notorious Pigeon Park" as seen from Hastings St:

and from the other side, on Carrall St in front of Pidgin restaurant:  

In case you missed it, Pigeon park is that triangle of concrete just beyond the two red cars.
 It's not much of a place for flora and fauna, but it's very convenient to drug deals.  Normally it would be full of Vancouver's most prolific purveyors of all things illicit, but the police are there, so Pigeon Park is bare.

  This is a restaurant on the edge. The boys in blue aren't the only ones hanging around outside the front doors. 

heh heh  "feed the hungry eat the rich"
Pete McMartin sez they are being childish. They want it to be housing for the neighborhood's poor, not an up-scale restaurant. Pete says 

"According to a City of Vancouver study, the stock of low-income singles housing in the down-town core has increased in the last 20 years, to 12,126 units in 2013 from 11,371 units in 1993."  And he calls this "Miraculous."  Yes, it's miraculous that we should have added and an extra 1200 units of social housing in the very neighbourhoods where all of the services which they rely upon are situated.  How Godlike of us.

How do you TRUMP that?

McMartin is right, though. The protesters are using childish tactics. Like shouting at people, and shining flash-lights through the bulletproof windows into the patrons faces.  That's just plain old bad PR. Er...  chuckling at that 'feed the hungry' slogan was immature, too.  My bad. I own that. Gentrification is an issue all over the place, as it always is. This neighborhood is especially vulnerable to changes, and the low income residents here don't have anywhere else to go.

Carnegie Community Action Project
Pidgin Restaurant has stirred the pot because Pigeon Park is considered the heart of the Downtown Eastside, but no-one at the park will be eating there. Brandon Grosutti is doing all the right things, though, bless him.  He obviously has a high Social IQ.  He is working with the community, and doing what he can to enrich the lives of his less fortunate neighbours. He's cool. Never mind that the food at Pidgin looks 

The corner store that used to be there was dodgy at best, so on many levels it does look like an improvement to me, but I can understand why the poor souls who live in the hood might feel marginalised, and angry.  Their world is a scary place to live. There is no security in it. An up-scale restaurant, complete with plate-glass windows, sort of puts the people outside on the streets "under the glass," in a way.
Don't you think?

  It's ironic, isn't it? As Canadians, we identify as peace-keepers, and as defenders of human rights, and we figure the rest of the world really respects us. But social malaise is rampant here, our human rights record is even more questionable than the results of the last election, and when you introduce yourself as a Canadian, people mention either Celine Dion or the clubbing of baby seals. 
I'm not sure which holds less appeal.

It's an intractable problem, but not an impossible one. People adapt, don't they?  

Homeless folks have been known to ask for money, right? Save on Meats up there has been around for ages.  Business suffered for quite a while when the neighborhood was too intimidating for most people, but it's bustling now. Save on Meats is still a butcher, but it's also a great little deli counter with some of the tastiest sarnies in town.  When they opened after their renovations, some customers were concerned with how to best respond to the panhandlers outside the door, so management came up with an idea. You can buy burger tokens to give the homeless folks out there who are begging for donations, if you're that way inclined. 

This is just a little tiny example of the principle that there is always a solution. 

There are so many issues tied up in the homelessness and poverty on the Downtown Eastside that it's going to take a concerted and determined effort to address it all, but there are solutions. People hailed the new Woodwards building as a "symbol of diversity and Urban Renewal," with it's multi-purpose spaces.  That's definitely one kind of solution. What would happen if a percentage of all urban development had to include some form of affordable housing?

After all, aren't food, housing and education basic human rights?

Is the new Woodwards building a success, or is it gentrifuckincation?  The neighbourhood is definitely changing, in some ways for the better... 

and sometimes not so much.

Resilience means learning from what works (and what doesn't) and trying again.  
If we keep at it, we can solve the issues which plague us, if only out of sheer, dogged persistence. 

The Downtown Eastside has a 
special charm you've just gotta love,

but there has to be a place and space for change, growth, and renewal, too. 
We'll probably muddle through, somehow.  The best route to our destination isn't always clear, but it's obvious that when it comes to setting intention, it's important to be specific about you're asking for.  The people of the Downtown Eastside have been asking for change for quite a while now, but it's doubtful this is what they had in mind.

What are we going to do?
I just like to K.I.S.S. whenever I can, cause mum always said
"Keep it simple, stupid."

And as to what the future holds?

Guess we're just going to have to let it ride.


  1. I love that orange velomobile parked on the sidewalk in the Save on Meats shot. That would be perfect for the rainy season!

    1. I was going to ask why there's a giant orange dildo sitting on the sidewalk. But that probably says more about the warped state of my mind than the subject itself.

    2. ...ya know...i once took a baby seal out clubbing...she had to wear a celine dion mask so the doormen would let her in because she was underage...

    3. heh heh

      Yeah. Too bad she didn't get in. She missed all the greatest hits.

  2. Nice post babble. You've done a good job on this blog sharing with us a little peek of your beautiful city . And the seedy side as well. Every city has one. I like the idea of the burger tokens for a handout. I would do something like that.

    1. ...i agree that the 'burger tokens' concept seems like a cool idea but the cycnical side of me says somewhere working the streets of van's east-side is a sleazy, low level entrepreneurial type who deals in trading small bits of cash for tokens so that cheap alcohol can be bought & he in turn benefits from the tokens...

      ...hate to be just sayin' but thus is human nature...

  3. Actually food, housing, and education are not rights. They cannot be rights. It is impossible to have rights to something that must be produced.

    1. ...okay...given that you feel so strongly about your 'fact', what would you actually contribute to the discussion or better yet, what idea or solution would you propose regarding feeding, housing & educating the less fortunate...

      ...i'm not calling you out but so far, you've only managed to sound like a politician...

    2. Since I'm in a linguistically quibbling mood, can we say that these things - or at least food and housing - should be called necessities, and not rights?

      Now whether a society should do anything to help it's citizens who may be unfortunate enough to not have these necessities, I'll leave to the anon's possibly Randian/ libertarian world view.

    3. my mum used to remind me - "...not all of god's creatures can fend for themselves..."...

    4. article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ( - sorry no link, in a rush!) reads
      Article 25.

      (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
      (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

      and article 26:
      Article 26.

      (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
      (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
      (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

      Just sayin'

  4. I'd rather they acted childish, because the protest I happened to see today in Portland was the most pathetic example of civil obedience I ever saw.

    1. What were they protesting in Portland?

    2. ...a depletion in the smugness quotient ???...

      ...just guessin'...

  5. Don't want to undermine the serious side of the post, just wanted to say I enjoyed the specially chosen angle of the next-to-last photo.
    I'm easily amused.