‘Things are not going to change’: Political will needed to fix issues facing people in Vancouver

A year ago, I shot a news story on a tent city decampment on Hastings Street in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

It appeared all too mean-spirited on the city’s part. The unhoused were forced to move on. Some had their belongings trashed. With no place to move on to.

However back in the edit suite I was struck at how the images I captured looked. You can be forgiven as a viewer if you felt it was the city cleaning up a mess.

Of course, what was missing was the people. In the chaos none of the residents were interviewed.

A year later Crab Park tent city residents are facing eviction. This time, I made sure to talk to as many people as possible.

Including dog lover Faral Twohearts from the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. He lost his place to live because his dog wasn’t allowed to stay. Faral didn’t tell me his whole story on how he ended up in Vancouver. Only admitting he messed up and wound up, on his daughter’s birthday, “on a bus heading the wrong way.”

Life in the Downtown Eastside has been devastating for people. Multiple issues stacked one on top of the other. A toxic drug supply threat kills seven people a day. Then COVID-19. Now, progressive wins achieved by those fighting the drug war are being rolled back.

Garth Mullins, a member of VANDU, Vancouver Area Network of Drug users, believes there is war on the poor and a war on drugs.

“It seems to me that, things are not going to change, unless someone finds the political will. But on the right, in the opposition, we have these people that are trying to create a moral panic, trying to scapegoat drug users, trying to say that the victims of all of this are really terrible people.”

Through it all what struck me most was the feeling of community in the tent city. The ones who are down and out the most are the ones who will look out for each other the most.

The houseless problem extends far beyond Vancouver. Most other Canadian cities have their own version to deal with. A solution seems far away.

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