Vancouver Behind the Facade

Don’t get me wrong – Vancouver is a beautiful city. My home for thirty five years, you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful natural setting or Canadian climate free from ice storms or mosquitoes. As with any city, take away the post card images, look in the dusty little corners – only then can we understand the whole story.



Look in the middle of the picture for the discarded syringe. Vancouver is home to Insite, Canada’s only funded premise for injection of street drugs. This isn’t a criticism of InSite, I believe in their approach to the drug problem – medical staff have saved countless people from death by over dose, provided clean needles – dramatically cutting down the spread of HIV and Hepatitis. InSite staff are there when people are ready to turn their lives around.


Fire escape

The downtown east side is the poorest neighborhood in Canada. Recent development has seen the area shrink as condos go up where flea bag hotels once stood. Rooming houses are poorly managed and maintained; the B.C. welfare shelter allowance for a single man is $375 a month – average rate for a room in a SRO (single room occupancy) building is $417 a month. The annual “homeless count” figures from October of this year show virtually no change from last year – steady at 1,600. Of these 67% were drug addicted, 46% had a mental illness, 42% suffered from a medical condition and 34% were physically disabled. 45 of the homeless were women – the city is looking into opening a women only shelter.




Bruins win the Stanley Cup


Bruins win the Stanley Cup

Hockey is taken seriously – both times the Vancouver Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup final and lost – major riots erupted in the downtown core. Not a pane of glass unbroken for blocks on end, looting, fires, riot squads and teargas. Millions of dollars in damage.





You can party like a rock star on Granville Street in the downtown entertainment district. Bars in the area open until 3 AM – just don’t plan on taking public transit home, rapid transit shuts down at 1:30 AM and bus service is limited to one north/south and one east/west route.




Frances Chan

You too can live in Vancouver, but this house will cost you well over a million dollars. The average rent for a home in the city is $2050, a one bedroom apartment $1046. Vancouver boasts the highest house prices in North America.

Tomorrow I’ll ponder what keeps me here.

All photos by my husband –

8 thoughts on “Vancouver Behind the Facade

  1. Very interesting. My husband and I visited Vancouver a couple of years ago (I grew up in the American San Juan islands, just south of you there) and we really enjoyed it, but yes, we were warned about crime in Gas Town, etc. We used public transportation (the elevated subway) to get around and that worked great and of course the cost was great, too. I never felt nervous about it, but we sure saw some interesting areas through the windows as we passed by. I’m not sure I’d have felt so comfortable without my husband with me. It’s a huge city and I’m kind of a country girl! I didn’t know it was so expensive to live there! I do want to go back someday…

    • Vancouver is a beautiful city with so much going for it – at the same time it’s changed a lot in the last 20 years. Places I once thought nothing of walking through at night now give me pause.It reminds me of the first time I visited San Francisco – thirty years ago – a city for the very rich and very poor, with the middle class left to fill ever sprawling sub-burbs. We’re extremely lucky to live in a very nice part of town and only pay $2000 rent, if we tried to find a house with comparable features we would be looking at $4000 a month or higher. Something to be said for staying put in the same place for the past 14 years 🙂

  2. It is a beautiful city, but like most places the more money you have the better place it is. The riots were interesting. In Boston when we lose we have another beer. Rarely does anything get broken. The rioting makes Canada look more English than the US. Just saying. ;

    • The hockey riots are disgusting! The last one was planned – as in win or lose it was going to happen – it was determined that a vehicle was soaked in flammable liquids (outside the main post office, the first photo)and set on fire before the game even ended.From there all hell broke loose – my husband was downtown taking pictures, he witnessed concussion charges being thrown by riot squads into crowds along with tear gas.
      Stupid trouble-makers aside – it’s a beautiful city. Our marathon in May has one of the best routes anywhere in north america 🙂

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