You know when you go to a new place, someone always tells you where the bad part of town is, and they warn you not to go there. In Vancouver, that place is known as Downtown Eastside. The New York Times even covered it last week as a lead up to the games. Here are some of the juicy morsels from that article:
– 15 square blocks of despair, squalid rooming houses and alleys populated by thousands of addicts, the homeless, the mentally ill and the drug dealers who prey on them.
– The most concentrated drug and poverty ghetto in North America.
– The only place in North America where drug addicts can shoot heroin into their veins at an officially sanctioned injection site. There are about 500 injections there a day.
– The area’s HIV rate is the worst in the developed world.
So what did I do tonight? I walked right down Hastings street.
I had met my boss and another NBC employee at a bar two blocks away from the epicenter of seediness. After leaving, instead of heading the safe way back downtown, we decided to take the long way so we could experience Hastings street and all it’s…..glory. In a matter of one block, we saw:
– About 75 homeless people
– A woman shoot up heroin
– 20 used syringes on the street
– People selling all sorts of stuff they found and/or stole
– We were approached by an older woman who told us her name was Buttercup just before she pulled out some condoms.
– Directly behind her was a homeless guy with a guitar singing “Drugs & Condoms”
The NY Times article is not joke. This is was one of the most intimidating moments of my life. Never again will any part of NYC scare me.
I finally unclenched by butt checks two blocks later as we passed the Vansterdam Cafe and the Cannabis Cafe. What a interesting city. Can’t wait to see more of it.