Posted by: TomA | 18 December 2006

Vancouver’s Homeless

The local media make a big deal about the homeless in Vancouver. Barely a newspaper goes by where there isn’t an article or a letter claiming it to be the biggest problem, like ever, suggesting solutions, moaning at proposed solutions, etc etc. The problem seems less apparent than in Nottingham though – which has less homeless I’ll admit, but probably more for the size of city it is.

The big difference here is that the homeless tend to keep to themselves unlike Nottingham, where they’re following you down the street on your way home on Friday night pestering you for money or looking for the opportunity to mug you. It might be because they have no other means of income in Nottingham – they can’t all sell the Big Issue.

In Vancouver however, they collect empties. You pay a ten or 20 cent deposit on all plastic and glass bottles and cartons, of which a sizeable proportion end up in the bin. Hordes of the homeless trek the streets, rummaging in bins to collect and return these to make some sort of an income, enough to at least feed oneself I suppose. Plus more rubbish gets recycled. While not a totally satisfactory solution, I guess its an improvement over the UK.

It isn’t all good though. Hastings & Main is rather unpleasant. I passed on the bus today, and the alleyways – and even on the sidewalks – are populated by drug addicts, doing drugs or scrambling on the floor looking for drugs that people may have dropped. That sad, I’ve not felt the area to be particularly threatening, no worse than dodgy bits of Nottingham. A recent article in the ‘Sun mentioned the garbage disposal workers were asking for police escorts before entering the area, so maybe I’ve misjudged.

Worse – from the warmth of my bus this morning on West Broadway, just before Main, I passed shop doorway, taped off with police tape. Against the doorway was slumped the body of a homeless man who’d died during the night, presumably from the cold. One policeman took photos of the corpse (they still use big, old cameras with large flash bulbs like in the movies), while the other stood beside the patrol car and sipped a coffee.

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