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“Third-world conditions exist down here.” Inside the Crisis on East Hastings

An online survey of a sample of 800 B.C. occupants found significant disappointment with all degrees of government with regards to tending to homelessness in the area.

Just about four-in-five respondents (79%) said they felt homelessness had expanded in B.C. throughout the course of recent years, and more than three-in-five (63 percent) said it was on the ascent in their region.

Given these perspectives, it's maybe not unexpected that 55% of B.C. inhabitants said their nearby government had done either a "terrible" (32 percent) or "exceptionally terrible" (23%) in offering solutions for the issue.

Potential Solutions

With respect to what arrangements British Columbians might want to see their province propose, the survey outlined four options.

60% of those surveyed concurred that B.C. ought to be changing zoning laws to allow property owners to build more units on standard lots.

Nearly four-in-five survey respondents (78 per cent) either strongly (37 per cent) or moderately (41 per cent) with "offering incentives to developers if they focus on building affordable housing units.

The poll was conducted from Aug. 13 to 15, according to Research Co., which says it carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Details of poll can be found (here link

Indigenous Community Disproportionately Affected

“The crisis of homelessness on Indigenous lands, and the City and Province’s neglect and criminalization of unhoused people is outrageous. Indigenous peoples are disproportionately homeless in one of the world’s wealthiest cities, and Indigenous women and children living with disabilities are most vulnerable to violence,” said Wilson.

Conditions of SROS and Shelters make it preferable to sleep on the streets

The condition of some housing options like single-room occupancy hotels (SROs) and shelters makes it preferable for some to sleep on the streets, says Lorissa Thordarson, who lives rough in the East Hastings area. 

One speaker named Paul who was from the Our Homes Can’t Wait Coalition reflected on some of the sentiments from the public about the Downtown Eastside. He acknowledged that some look at the Downtown Eastside as a waste.

He added that the reason there are so many people on the streets is that SROs are unliveable.

“Third-world conditions exist down here.”

He said that in some of the SROs he lived in, he was forced to walk eight blocks just to take a shower or use the bathroom. In some cases, the bathrooms don’t even work.

After Vancouver’s fire department ordered homeless people to remove tents and structures because of the risk of fire several weeks ago, city workers brought wheeled garbage bins for people to store their belongings in.

The bins appear to be clean and new, but Maggie said being given a garbage can to store her stuff is humiliating.

“We’re treated just like those bins,” she said. “Garbage.”

But now in the heat of summer — a period when many people live on the street to escape their stifling SRO rooms — the tent city on East Hastings has exploded into a full-blown crisis that many community advocates say has been mismanaged by multiple levels of government.

Homeless people have been ordered to clear their tents and structures — but the city and BC Housing have admitted there are few housing options to offer to people.

40 people living in tents on Vancouver street agree to move to housing

BC Housing reports that forty individuals who were living in a street encampment on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside have accepted offers of accommodation.

“They are real people who need our help,” said Stewart of the encampment’s residents. “It’s a very painful process for people that are already experiencing trauma and this is only adding to their burden of life.”

Mochrie said the situation in the Hastings encampment was part of a “fundamental systemic challenge” extending beyond the Downtown Eastside, but in July the camp grew substantially.

"We are working with the city (and) with the federal government on long-term plans to either renovate or redevelop a number of SROs within the Downtown Eastside, but that is costly. It's time consuming, and it will emerge over many years to come," he said.

"We are doing what we can in a situation that we fully recognize is less than ideal."


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