I walk Granville street most days, and over time have gotten familar with who sleeps in which doorway or under what awning. There are couples and singles, lost people, people who didn’t mean to end up there, but they did. I can’t say I know their stories, but I know who is quiet, who to walk past quickly, who I wish I could help and who seems beyond help. Granville is usually less busy, and something about it feels better to me than Burrard or some of the others nearby.
When I walk to work, sometimes I feel like I’m invading their privacy, like I’m peering through their bedroom window. Catching glimpses of their lives. There are couples who sleep in, curled together under sleeping bags. There are the ones who are up already, but still groggily looking at each other. There are those who are already up and cleaning their few belongings, ready to move on.
A dog is curled under one of the sleeping bags, only his head and front paws sticking out. He sleeps peacefully next to his owner who is still fast asleep. There is also a guy with a cat, but I don’t see him often. Being homeless and alone, from everything I can see, is worse than being homeless with a companion.
People have their spots and I see generally the same people every day. Sometimes a new few emerge, and then disappear the next day, missing kid signs pop up (or don’t) and life moves on. I wonder sometimes where they go? Most of the awake homeless residents seem to be cleaning up their sleeping areas there are always those who seem to wander, semi aimlessly like they haven’t actually gone to sleep at all. They walk with a lost and confused look trying to find a fix, maybe they didn’t sleep and maybe they aren’t even homeless but they are always a little unnerving. There is always an agitated sense of desperation that follows and I honestly don’t know how to react, so I generally just don’t.
Was Vancouver always like this? It has certainly had a reputation for a while, but just seems like it can’t get worse. And then somehow it does. The housing market keeps going up, renting becomes unnafordable and those who were clinging on by their last pennies can find themselves homeless. Nothing justifies the cost of living here, weather cannot cause a doubling in housing costs, or at least it shouldn’t. Even so-called “affordable” housing sits well above what many can afford. Why should the poor and lower middle class be pushed out of the city centre? It’s the diversity of the city which gives it life. If everyone is busy just barely getting by, what is left? You find a downtown like Vancouver with the extremes of wealth and poverty living on top of each other. In my opinion this is a recipe for disaster. Maybe not now, but in the near future. Less and less decisions are made based on long term plans, but rather on how to make the most right now. Everyone has fallen victim to it at some point. When my property manager decides to increase the rent on incoming renters by 30% this is a very short sighted approach. Suddenly a crappy building needs to attract people who can afford that, but they are so often transient and desperate people who will pay anything. In our particular building, many suites around us have been renovated, but only cosmetically. The building is still poorly ventilated, there is mold in some of the suites, windows have not been replaced since the 60s and are still single pane. It’s only a bandaid fix and because those cosmetic changes are done cheaply they will fall apart before anything else. But they don’t care, it’s making some money now, even though these suites take twice as long to rent out. It’s not surprising though since there are other suites in the neighbourhood for less that have had structural upgrades done. Anyways, that’s my two cents and a bit more rambling than necessary.