Musing: The Downtown Eastside

I have visited the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver thrice. All three times involves me traveling in a car through the Eastside. The first time involved me traveling through the Downtown Eastside, from West to East Hastings. The second and third times involved me traveling through to the Pacific National Exhibition from and to Main Street.

I find interest in the otherwise shunned, if not stigmatized Downtown Eastside. I’ve attained the said interest ever since being exposed to studies in social inequalities in Canada. The downtown eastside was once the shopping hub of Vancouver, with cheap hotels (the Balmoral comes to mind), and alcohol. With the hub of commerce moving westwards to the downtown today, the cheap hotels, and the alcohol that remain complements issues of drug use and prostitution. The “poor because they are poor, and they should be shunned” mentality is one that unfortunately still permeates the place. There is an importance in helping yourself, but shouldn’t society and the more fortunate demographics take some responsibility for this to have happened?

Despite the prevalent “common-sense” approach and attitude to shunning the Downtown Eastside, there is definitely a certain historic charm about the place. I find interest in old buildings, and I could still remember, in my photographic memory, the architecture of the bygone early to mid 20th century juxtaposed by metal. There’s a sense of peace and harmony as people carry on with their daily rhythms of life, sitting by the brick buildings, chatting in the warm glow of the summer weather.

There is a certain “finished” blog that I have started reading – Eastside Stories: Diary of a Vancouver Beat Cop, dealing with a cop’s experience patroling the Downtown Eastside, his encounters with its inhabitants. There is a debunking of the glorious cop myth – the hero stopping bank heists and robbery prevalent in his blog posts, offering a much more down-to-earth perspective of his experiences.

One of these days, I would like to take the bus that travels through and around the Downtown Eastside, and engage in nice informal interviews with bus drivers regarding their experience driving around with a diverse group of passengers from an otherwise shunned variety of walks of life.


“Musing: The Downtown Eastside” was published on June 11, 2013, which is part of my past internship work. Read more about Vincent Wong’s work at https://vincentwongwanders.wordpress.com .

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