Tonight’s my last night living on the downtown east side of Vancouver and I couldn’t be more excited. The alleyway behind my building between Hastings and Cordova at Carrall Street has been seeing more action lately.
There have been way more drunks as well as fights between dealers and the street folks running drugs than there has been all year. There were two assaults Tuesday morning, alone.
I remember when I agreed to move into this place in November 2010. I couldn’t wait to sign a one-year lease and move into an awesome studio apartment. The property management rep told me it was quiet and partiers from the nearby clubs wouldn’t be heard at the back of the building. She said the people on the floor with me were the kind to introduce themselves and have parties with neighbours. Well, the partiers were rarely an issue and the dozen or so times my neighbours responded to greetings were pleasant enough, but I didn’t know the area well enough to know that there was a very busy crack trade behind the building.
During the day, you walk around and get stared down by dealers. It’s uncomfortable if you don’t look away first or initiate eye contact, but sometimes it’s fun. They don’t want any trouble beyond their work, but they need to be tough and not be interfered with. Tonight, though, was the first time a couple of them were yelling to one another across the alley when a resident yelled down to quiet them down. The response from the alley was an invitation to come downstairs and perform fellatio. It was the first time I’d heard threats of any kind come over the fence and I couldn’t be happier to be leaving.
This is the most depressing area I’ve spent any length of time. There are elements of hope and great things going on here, but I was looking for a place to live and positive community around me and that’s impossible to maintain when at any time the sad, sad drug trade can come floating in your window.
In early July there was an assault by three or four people on one man. It was painful to listen to and right when it started it had escalated past my threshold of whether to call 911 versus the emergency line (you need to have one if you live here and care enough to call at all). While I called, one of my neighbours screamed and ran out. The note to the right was left by the victim a few days later.
It’s a sad place to be 24/7 and it weighs on you if you aren’t directly involved. While it’s not a terrible place to visit, and likely not unsafe for the average person wandering around most of the time (though a friend saw a kidnapping on my block shortly before I moved (in so I found out well after)), it’s not a great place to be if you’ve got other options.
I don’t think I’ll visit the area for a while after I move. I’m jaded, pretty depressed with it all and really don’t feel that optimistic that this particular corner will change relatively soon. That might be a bit pessimistic, but have a chat with a police officer next time you’re in the area and see how they’re feeling. My conversations are nothing I can write about, but it’s not particularly uplifting.
So long, downtown east side. Thanks for opening my eyes, breaking my heart and giving me so much optimism for my next move.