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"Don’t get me wrong, I love Downtown Eastside"
This is the 14th series of reports “Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside: Past and Present.” The Downtown Eastside is a neighbourhood with severe issues, amongst them, poverty, homelessness and drug overdose, all of which have intensified with the pandemic.
The week before last, Emma Gregory and I walked the streets of the Downtown Eastside and interviewed a number of people.
Brian Rutledge has lived in the Downtown Eastside for about four years, but he says he’s been partying in the neighbourhood since the age of 14. He works at Spikes on Bikes and Binners. He knows where to get a free meal. When we asked him what he thought the issues were with living in an SRO, he had his grievances but maintained a touch of gratitude. What does one do when given a free apple but don’t have a full set of teeth? “We make applesauce.”
In the present day, the Downtown Eastside faces multiple issues all of which have been exacerbated by COVID 19. This is within a population that has been struggling for decades. Amongst these are housing, health; including overdose, mental health and the impact of the pandemic, poverty and homelessness, indigenous reconciliation and policing.
Future episodes will include representatives from various organizations: civic, provincial and grassroots, addressing the task at hand.
The work to be done is not to be underestimated yet the resilience and determination of community members, not commonly recognized, continues to grow. As well as these individuals, we will also be hearing from those who live in the community and call it home.