DTES at Night — This Week in Pictures

A needle, cook spoon, sterile water and a flap of heroin paper -- all discarded in the lane behind the Regent Hotel. Years ago, IV drug users would often share needles, cook with rusty kitchen spoons and draw puddle water into their syringes when they needed to fix. These days, all the paraphernalia is handed out for free at places like Insite, needle exchanges, rooming houses and mobile vans that cruise the DTES to hand out care packages. The poison, of course, is still purchased on the black market.

The Pantages Theatre has been a flashpoint lately for housing activists. The theatre is being ripped down and turned into a mix of market and social housing. The project will include 79 condos, sold at market prices, 18 social housing units, and 2,500 sq ft of arts space. Some housing activists think the project should be 100 per cent social housing.

My partner and I stopped to check this couple after noticing some suspicious activity in the lane across from the police station. The take-down lights from the police car cast some neat shadows and made for a cool photo. The mural in the background was created a couple years back in an attempt to beautify the area and reduce crime.

Women are among the most vulnerable on the Downtown Eastside. They can be easy prey for drug dealers, johns and street enforcers, and often when they are victimized they have no immediate way to call for help. Many cops, including myself, now carry recycled cell phones to hand out to people who are vulnerable or fearful. The phones don't have cell phone plans or contracts, they can be used to call 911 in the case of an emergency.

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20 Responses to DTES at Night — This Week in Pictures

  1. Jordan says:

    Wow – I love the idea of handing out limited-use, recycled phones to the DTES’s marginalized. Given how traditional and rigid policing can seem at times it is great to see innovative programs like this!

    I miss The Beat (TV Show).

  2. 9-1-1 Operator says:

    I have an older phone that works perfectly well. The only “issue” with it is that it doesn’t hold a charge as well as it used to. I DO have the charger for it though.
    It’s a flip phone and pretty sturdy as I’ve seen from it being dropped more than I can count.
    How/where can I donate it?

  3. Steve (not the cop) says:

    I agree that giving out the phones is a good initiative…
    But I also wonder what percentage of the people still have the phones a week later, given that desperate people are known to sell absolutely anything to get a few bucks closer to their chosen intoxicant.

  4. Sparky says:

    If anyone thinks all drug addicts deserve sympathy and understanding just have a look at that abandoned rig.

    Addicts leave them all over the place and hide them in places any unsuspecting person, including kids could find them.

    If they want respect – then they should show some respect to others in the community.

    • DTES Vet says:

      For the most part they do. Most user’s will get after other user’s for leaving their rigs laying about. A few of the issues that lead to this are that InSite is only open 18 hours a day and the rig boxes put up in the alleys are systematically being destroyed. This is not being done by users them selves, but supposed up standing citizens, that do not believe in the project. I have witnessed this myself.

      DTES Vet

      • MBFA says:

        Most addicts, from what I’ve seen, will make an attempt to clean up rigs and stuff, especially if warned children are coming or could see them. Sometimes all you have to do is say “Children!” in a whisper and they’ll start tidying up. Not always, but most of the time.

        On a different note, I found this article awhile back: http://thedependent.ca/featured/base-logic-part-one-introductions/

        It’s about dealers in the DTES and how they work and I’d be very interested in hearing any officer’s take on it. It’s obviously missing stuff, but it was a bit of an eye-opener for me.

    • Janice says:

      In my opinion most drug addicts,( not all )don’t give two hoots about respect. They are lost souls and are only interested in their next fix. It would be good if they did dispose of their stuff properly,but they don’t care.How do you turn that around? There are drop boxes around but only some use them.Maybe if you happen to catch them in the short stint of reality in between their last fix and the next one…I don’t see that happening all to soon. Sadly enough.

  5. Janice says:

    Great idea about handing out cell phones, every little bit helps to keep the women safe!!!

  6. Robert says:

    Hi Steve. I read the Globe and Mail piece about your blog and checked it out. Great idea and fantastic you can relate what it is like in that area of Vancouver. I worked for three summers while going to school for the Vancouver Sanitation department cleaning the sidewalks on those streets on graveyard. I know what you mean by the feel, the smell, and the desperation. I have bookmarked your blog. All the best in your future blogging endeavours. Thanks Steve.

  7. Heather says:

    I think women’s shelters accept old cell phones as well.

  8. myna lee says:

    arrived here from G&M article
    valuable posts
    judgements on “cops” could be altered by this blog

  9. Lisa says:

    Congratulations on the story in the Globe and Mail! Clearly, I’m not alone in finding your stories riveting.

  10. DTES Vet says:

    There is a respect out there for children.
    When you are on the street, especially between Main and Columbia, and someone comes on the block with a child you hear this call go out and it travels all the way down to Carol.
    Someone starts at the top of the hill and people yell all the way down “kid on the block”.
    This has people putting there gear away and stop smoking until the child has passed.
    There is more attention payed to this warning that when someone yells “six up”.

  11. Sparky says:

    Too bad for the rest of us who don’t travel around with children. What’s the cut-off age for showing respect?

    • Mick says:

      Sparky, sometimes looking at the harsh reality of the DTES is upsetting. We have to remember to never look down on somebody unless you are helpiung them up.

  12. DTES Vet says:

    Well Sparky I think you should take your own advice here.
    You seem to have a really negative attitude toward the poor and
    marginalised. Maybe if you show them some respect you will get some in return instead of looking down your nose at people in that community.

    12 years of working down there and I never had a problem with anyone on the street.
    If I asked someone to pick up a rig or not use on the block…they did it.
    As I am sure Steve can attest to this, the people living in that area are so beaten down, traumatized and mentally unstable that all you have to do is treat them like a human and not something you stepped in and you will be treated with respect and always have someone watching your back. Please also keep in mind that the community is made up of families, three or four generations who have lived on the street. So yes some do not have the best social skills but either would you if no one cared enough to teach you.

  13. malloreigh says:

    i have two older phones with chargers that i’d love to donate so they can be handed out to folks who need them in the DTES. how do i get in touch?