Beggars, homeless & junkies, Vancouver
Vancouver, especially in recent years, has had an ongoing problem with aggressive panhandling. Aggressive meaning that beggars will approach people as opposed to simply sitting off to the side. It's a huge political topic in the city, but an issue that never seems to get solved.
Some beggars are legitimately homeless. Some are hardcore drug addicts. Some are mentally ill, and some are just begging as a lifestyle choice.
I've noticed, especially on travel forums, that unsuspecting (and often first-time) visitors to Vancouver are often scared by Vancouver's beggars. If they're not scared, they tend to assume that beggars are somehow dangerous, or that they signify a dangerous neighbourhood. This is not really the case.
The beggars in Vancouver are just that. They are not armed robberers. They are not violent. They do not signify bad neighbourhoods. Most importantly, Vancouver's "bad" neighbourhoods, such as the Downtown Eastside, are not violent. They may have a lot of drug addiction and open air drug use, but they are not places of random violence, muggings, or gang warfare.
Beggars are especially visible in downtown Vancouver, especially in areas of high pedestrian and/or tourist traffic. So even places with high end shops will eventually have beggars at one point during the day wandering around outside. Some begging hotspots include Water Street in Gastown, Granville Street, Davie Street, Robson Street, and Denman Street. Even neighbourhoods outside of downtown like Kitsilano and Commercial Drive have their fair share of beggars.
If you look like a tourist, beggars are more likely to hassle you - especially in Gastown, and especially if you dress like you just stepped off a cruise from Alaska. Just tell them no. They will almost always leave you alone. There is no need to fear them. Keep your street smarts and don't feel you need to give away your money. And don't be surprised if you get asked over 5 times in one day for spare change. This is the unfortunate reality of 21st century Vancouver.
We stayed at the nice little Holiday Inn, right near Granville Bridge, in downtown. The hotel was nice; but the view looked out onto the street, where there was a 711 and a bustop in front of it. The junkies on Sunday morning gathered in front of the 711, and actually did drug/money exchange, right oout in the open! Then, the junkies took their junk to the bus stop, and smoked it! It was pretty disgusting. They look like animals; the way they move, the constant moving; you'd think that their bodies couldn't put up with that for too long. Anyway, it was sad to me that there is suck a lack of police in the city, to do anything about this open drug use. Also, the dealer who sold the drugs was with a retarded boy, and I thought that was sad. I could see that he was retarded, from our fourth floor window, but his caregiver was busy making money I guess. Get it together, Vancouver, crack down on that drug use; it hurts the children involved, whose parents are strung out. And for us tourists, it's not too fun to see.
They are out in force in Vancouver especially in areas that attract tourists as well as downtown. Gastown has security posted .. Just don't make eye contact and they, for the most part, leave you alone.
If you wander through the Gastown area of Vancity be warned that if you walk too far..and head too east you enter a very dodgey area with a lot...A LOT...of beggars and junkies and god knows what else...people having full on conversations with themselves...people not afraid to approach or follow you. Being 2 girls on this trip we were a little bothered by how close the bums actually get to you. I live in Toronto, for crying out loud, and I have never seen more street people than I did when I visited Vancouver!! It was surprising, actually, because I had heard that they had a bit of a "bum" problem but I was not expecting to see so many wandering the city centre!
When you get around Gastown, which is the funnest place to go at night, you will run into alot of colourful (nicely put) characters. Just watch your self, especially the more east you go, the worse it gets.
However, generally, anyone who will actually approach you is quite harmless and just asking for money. They will not hurt you and are usually quite friendly considering their situation. But overall, walking around there at night is not the best display of society at all.
Here are some tips on dealing with panhandlers from somebody who does it on a regular basis. There are a lot of people out there that have no choice. They closed down a lot of wards at our mental health facility and there weren't enough group homes for them to transfer people to so they ended up on the east side.
- Be polite, even if you can't stand them when they ask you for change respond with "sorry I can't today" or something along those lines. It will prevent you from being harassed or verbally abused.
- Be selective, if you are a bleeding heart and inclined to give money to panhandlers be picky about who you're giving it to. Choose the people who are providing a service such as shoe shinning or selling things they've made over people who are just sitting there demanding money.
- Find an alternative, if you don't want to give them money maybe take the time out of your day to stop in at one of our many veggie markets and buy them some fruit. What is a 34 cent orange? Or maybe even a smile to brighten their day.
I have travelled many places in the world including North Africa, and have felt more safe and less bothered there than in the city of Vancouver. Supposedly, peaceful Vancouver Canada has a huge drug problem, and one of the worst ghettos in North America. In fact, it is the only city in the world where I know addicts deal drugs, and inject drugs right on the same block as the police station Main and Hastings. Ironically you are likely to get a arrested if you peacefully drink a beer on the beach, so hypocritical. Vancouver is so full of aggressive beggars and panhandlers that block your path and harass you that many residents avoid going downtown. More importantly the worse area is right in betwen the tourist areas of Chinatown and Gastown. However, the problem exists through out the city. In addition, Vancouver has one of the highest property crime rates and car theft rates in North America, so if you plan to drive in Vancouver, your car may not be there when you get back, or it will have its window broken, and valuables including pop cans stolen.
For those who are willing to put up with the annoying social issues of Vancouver, it is a beautiful place to visit in the summer!
If your looking for trouble youll find it. If your not, understand the size of Vancouver brings big city trouble with it. Stay with people you trust and know. I spent two weeks here with no trouble but I drove through areas you wouldnt feel the need to stop at and not to blame crime on the homeless but as an indicator of other problems Vancouver has a surprisingly high number.
Along the streets of downtown Vancouver, you will see TONS of beggers and homeless people. See, I'm a nice person, so when they would try and stop me for money, I would tell them no I don't carry any, and they would be so polite and say things like "thank you anyway" or "have a nice day" or even "God Bless You"....So it kinda makes you feel bad!
Note: I suggest ignoring them if you don't intend on giving them anything, or if you are a softy :)
alot of these posts make vancouver seem like a REALLY scary place. Im gonna let you know, it really isn't. I live in a small town just outside of vancouver called tsawassen, and....its sorta known to be a snobby little town. It has no crime at all, so you could say that i would be expected to feel very in danger downtown. Im gonna let you know right now, i am NOT at all. Me and my friends take the canada line train into downtown, down by robson and granville, every weekend, normally stay till about 1 then come home, and i have never had any issues. I am 13 years old, and 5'1, not the most street smart, and my mother says i look "vulnerable" and i still have had no issues downtown, or with the homeless or beggers. My mother even lets my 10 year old sister take the skytrain downtown with her friends to go shopping. Apart from the eastside, this city is perfectly safe. Just stay away from the eastside. I used to have to go down there for acting auditions, being around there brings me to tears. Its really bad, but just a few streets away, around robson and granville and such, i feel safe alone at night. So, my point being, dont be afraid of vancouver just because of what you have seen or heard about the east side, because that is only 10 blocks of this amazing city. The east side is scary as hell, but stay away from there and its the most wonderful and beautiful city ever. I love it here. DONT skip over vancouver cause of "skidrow"
I live in Vancouver.. have for 44 years. It's my "home". All you bashers have no damn idea. This is the MOST expensive city in Canada, if not North America, and we get the LEAST minimum wage, and LEAST amount for social services, such as disabilty.. it hasn't risen in 10 YEARS! Do you have any idea what it's like to get $900 a month for disability, yet rents START at $600 to $700? Rents rose by 50% over the course of the Olympics. People lost there places to make room for tourists, who paid much more than the original tenants paid. And after the Olympics, the rents stayed just as high. I'm lucky that it's just me.. it would be worse if I was a single mother.
Then there's the psychiatric hospitals and old folks homes, closed down to make way for condos. Where do you think they wound up?
And for the people that unfortunately wound up on the streets because of this, the city built shelters.. to clean the streets before the "party" started. But 1 month after the Olympics ended, the city decides it can't "afford" to keep the shelters open.. everybody's back on the streets. Welfare only covers you for 3 months, or at least that used to be the rule, and they only get $525.. $375 for rent.. anything above, and it comes out of your support. .. Kraft Dinner's $2 a box! The very little they give you doesn't go very far.
As for the beggers/aggressive panhandlers.. every big city has it, we're not alone. Ever been to Hawaii? Same thing. So's New York, Toronto, Seattle, "your city".
As for the crack heads smoking in plain site.. yes it's sad, but it's society. In Amsterdam they're not doing anything illegal, not even if crack, yet here in Canada.. they're criminals, scum. Heck.. the biggest dealer's hangout is kitty-corner to the Vancouver Police Station.. in plain site. Yes, police do their rounds, but it doesn't stop.
People need to step back and think for a moment.. "why" are these people in this situation in the first place? And "why" doesn't their government care?? .. It's criminal.
I've been living in Vancouver since 1991 and I have to say that I feel very safe in this city (at night or daytime). I've traveled to US and European cities, and compared to most of those, it is safe. I feel safe walking home at 3AM on Saturday morning from a bar, for example.
Yes, Downtown Eastside (DTES) is an eyesore, an embarrassment, and a ghetto. But that's what it is, a ghetto, meaning that the junkies, dealers, and prostitutes are all congregated into several blocks on East Hastings, east of say Abbott street. If you don't wanna witness this, then just don't go there, but even if you did go there, nothing really bad would happened, except maybe being asked for money. I wont go into detail here why this place exists or why the cops don't do anything, but it's basically an eyesore, but not very unsafe.
Regarding beggars, yes they exists maybe more than other Canadian cities, but you just have to be firm with them and say No and walk away and they leave you alone. Don't get into conversations with them, cause the all have a "believable" story to tell you.
So to recap, Vancouver is a safe city, but is does have a beggar population, and an eyesore junkie ghetto that is the Downtown Eastside, which you can visit (better drive through) or not.
Ya know, a lot of people go on about the homeless. It really isn't that bad. Yes there are some who walk around having a conversation with an imaginary friend. I try to keep an open mind and would like to think that for every one of the mentally unstable or down right rude people there is one who has been a skilled professional or knowledgeable person who is just unfortunate. Keep in mind I never visited this Eastside everyone goes on about. But I suppose every city does have that type of area.
Some of the things I've seen are even worse like the yuppie spawn in their 20's who think they can do whatever they want. I was more disgusted by these people when I visited than the homeless. Rude, abrasive, constantly swearing and talking about the fight they started the night before or tearing down the street obviously drunk. Funny thing is I've seen more of them randomly shout at people than that crazy guy sitting on the corner. Even the women. The police seem to do nothing about this or could care less. I saw them pick on some guy rapping at English bay who was pretty darn good and not hurting anyone. Five or six cops were there harassing him when god knows would else could have been happening around the area at the time that they could be checking out. Police here seem to be a bullies only club and that's saying a lot considering I'm from Toronto.
Drivers. Wow. This has to be the worst city I've ever been to for this. If you visit use transit as much as possible. I didn't feel safe even walking around.
It seems to me that there are some major issues in Vancouver that are covered up with a shiny exterior.
Otherwise it was relatively fun. Very clean compared to just about everywhere I've visited. Lots of things to see and do. Loved the aquarium and science center and walking along Granville with all its interesting people about. It's very expensive though so make sure you save up.
First off, I've worked in this field for a long time, at a YWCA downtown housing centre. Not much is shocking to me, and I can tell right away when someone is in trouble and when someones yanking my chain. I was in Vancouver for the first time back in May (I ran the Vancouver Marathon; LOVED IT, stayed at the 'Y' of course, loved that too...). Anyway the day after the marathon I decided to walk around a little. I've known about DTES (downtown eastside) for years; I absolutely loathe the idea that tourists go to these areas to 'look at these people' as if it's the circus. I did notice, while sitting inside a McDonald's type of place...I got two ice cream cones upside down in cups. I sat and ate one, and looked out the window for a while, thinking how I'd love to leave the frigid northern Minnesota winters for a more temperate Vancouver when a man, who looked about 15 years older than his real age, sat down across from me. Exhausted, scared, hungry; I admit I was caught off guard. He asked if I was going to eat the other ice cream cone. I said no, you have it, do you want a sandwich...he just wanted something cold to eat. He had sat on the bus for three days from Ottawa to Vancouver. I really wished I had read up on local services because I knew this guy needed some sleep, some clean clothes and food; a shower and just the comfort in knowing someone cares. I later found out there are two service centers downtown (I'm not sure of the address but) they are Opportunity Place, and the Yukon Homeless Shelter. I believe Vancouver's YWCA does have a shelter specifically for homeless women with kids. Of course, I'm aware the larger problem has to do with drugs/alcohol, many shelters won't tolerate people coming in high or drunk, which results in the increase of street people.
On our way to Chinatown, at the crossing of Hastings Street and Main Street we dropped off the bus, this wasn't the best idea... At the crossing you find Carnegie Centre. A centre for drug and alcohol addicts not the best place to be the tourist.