These are just some of the hard cold facts. I hope to fill this blog with some flesh and blood stories in the future.
The Downtown Eastside (DTES) is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Vancouver and is known as "Canada's poorest postal code."
The area is noted for a high incidence of poverty, drug use, sex trade, crime, as well as a history of community activism. The area was the victim of significant urban decay, once the core shopping district in the city, the retail shops that flourished until the early 1980s are now gone.
The Downtown Eastside, as defined by the City of Vancouver, was home to 16,590 people in 2001, appormixetly 12,000 are low income. Many of these low-income people are those who suffer from severe alcohol and drug addictions and mental illness.
There are estimated to be over 700 homeless people in the Downtown Eastside. Most of them can now find a space in a shelter at night or find a friend who will put them up. The remainder will sleep under a bridge, at the side of the street, in an alcove or wherever. Some prefer to sleep outside as some shelters are unclean, (bed bugs, rats, etc.), or unsafe, (drugs, gangs and other predators). Most of the homeless are suffering from severe addiction and mental illnesses.
According to the city, 10% of the residents self-identified as Aboriginal in 2001, which comprised approximately 10% of the total Aboriginal population in the city. In the same year, 43% of the population were immigrants, with 23% of those being from China, 5% from Vietnam, 2% from Hong Kong and 14% from all other countries. The average household size is 1.3 residents; 82% of the population lived alone. Children and teenagers make up 7% of the population, compared to 25% for Canada overall.
The Downtown Eastside has a high incidence of HIV infection. Vancouver's drug problem has grown steadily worse over the last decade with the most common drugs being heroin, crack cocaine, cocaine in powdered form (which is often taken intravenously as well as simply insufflated/snorted), and—increasingly--crystal methamphetamine.