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Vancouver 'citizen' writes the 'Truth' about Vancouver's deplorable East Side
Dying down in Sam's Town-A story of Olympic proportions!  Jun 13, 2007

By Laurence Cameron (Witness)
I found her quite fascinating, albeit in an ugly, train wreck kind of way. She gave me a slightly embarrassed but sweet smile and went back to her task of trying to inject drugs into her jugular vein. She was having a difficult time. Unsteady on her feet and with trembling hands, trying to negotiate the needle to her neck. She held a child's nightstand mirror up so she could see what she was doing. I wondered if it belonged to her child. She too was here in this diseased place of 'business'. Her business was simply staying alive (if this is a life). I was there for an entirely different reason, I was being paid.
What brought me here to this deepest, darkest Downtown Vancouver East Side was my job helping to coordinate the pilot project of cleaning up four of the ugliest alleys in Vancouver's famously drug addicted Skid Row. The City's Sanitation Department and the Vancouver Police Department were working together to rid the north and south Hastings Street lanes, from Main Street to Columbia, of the tonnes of "abandoned garbage" that accumulate there day after day. Mattresses, appliances, bags of bug infested clothing, junk furniture and of course, fleets of shopping carts left behind by "binners".
By this day of all days was the reason why the VPD and the Sanitation Branch had worked so hard together for three weeks. United in common cause, today was the day that Mayor Sam Sullivan would do his, ah, 'walkabout' and see just how wonderful things were down here in the snake pit. I watched he and his circus roll down the hill towards us.
All around the Mayor were media types, mid and high level City ass kissers, police liaisons, and a cloud of 'fly like' hangers-on buzzing around, making sure the locals were sufficiently intimidated by the fuss so as to not emerge from their holes until after the clean and shiny people had safely passed.
As they approached, I grew more and more jaded, almost angry. For me, never had the disconnection between elected 'officials' and great unwashed been so clearly illustrated. But I think that the final straw for me was when, the night before, after the City's Sanitation nightshift ran the flusher trucks down these lanes to wash and deodorize the environment so poor Mayor Sam wouldn't have to endure the smell of death and decay, someone actually painted the walls.
I have no idea who did it, whose idea it was or which department's budget it came from, but yes, they actually painted the walls in these 4 lanes the night before. I was left slack-jawed.
On my right was an equally beleagured VPD officer. Together we marvelled at the utter pointlessness of the paint job, shaking our heads. To my left was the frustrated junkie. She wasn't having any success with her syringe and now adding to her distraction was myself and the police officer (who "didn't see her") and now this herd of suits and cameras slowly oozing towards the three of us.
I looked up and down these nasty, vicious lanes. The perfume and paint didn't fool anyone. In this picture before my eyes, before the police officer, (the "witnesses"), the most clear picture of Have's and Have Not's emerged, laid bare for all to see, (that is if anyone there gave a damn). But what I had never considered before was what bothered me the most. Many of these officials liked the charade. You could see it in their faces. They knew the truth, it was right before their eyes. It made me think of how smug people can be when they've 'got their own' security. Obviously it didn't matter about the truth, it mattered how their distorted view of the truth, the lie was presented to 'people who mattered'.
Nobody wanted the dirty job of actually helping these people. (I suppose at this point, we could ask "Are they really people?") Oh sure, get all combed and cleaned for the cameras, gargle a little Scotch to take the edge of reality off, and take a high and mighty stroll through the jungle just often enough to keep the Federal and Provincial largesse rolling in-and then throw the shoes they wore down to the Eastside away, as if removing the evidence from the scene of the crime.
I've often wondered who actually represented me at City Hall, in Victoria or on Planet Ottawa? What about this pathetic creature to my left? Who was her Guardian Angel? Was her Guardian Angel too afraid of the urine soaked doorways, the syringes, the shit, and the stench of people waiting to die, or was her Guardian Angel now on the payroll? This group of so-called dignitaries possessed no Guardian Angels, just a rumpled up Doctor Lovelace imitation and a bunch of bootlickers. This group was all about looking good, about giving the appearance of some semblance of humanity, when in fact there was none. Not any. Zero. Are you reading this Mr. Harper? Are you reading this Ms. Clinton? Are any of you out in cyberspace reading this? Does it matter to YOU?
This group was all about shoveling the propaganda, sufficient to stoke the fire of the lies of public relations, doing just enough, to remove the nominal risk of losing the best job they ever had. None of this was about helping people who needed it most. It was all about them.
On that day, someone could have helped this woman somehow. They all knew who to call to make this happen, EVEN if that meant making the situation appear more palatable, even if their actions were the most residual of altruism. But not on this day. There was no room for helping anyone on this day. This woman was a drug addict and part of the PR problem for the City of Vancouver. What would the world think if they knew the truth about what a shitty bunch of little people we actually were? They would likely feel as I did, as I do, like puking.
No, these Vancouver City dignitaries only wanted the appearance of helping people. The stage was obviously 'set-up', the Mayor and his 'peeps' part of the staging. The only difficult task these people were willing to accept was that of throwing their dirty contaminated shoes away.
I'm sure that the day after Sam's tour, all went back to normal in those lanes. The usual suspects defecating behind garbage bins, drug deals, sex, violence, you know-the normal every day activities in Canada's Poorest Postal Code.
Maybe next time they'll decide to focus on something more than a couple of dirty lanes here and there. Maybe next time they'll leave it as is so the political 'tourists' can actually get an accurate picture of what goes on in those alleys, and all the others exactly like them. Vancouver's Downtown East Side is NOT "The BEST place on Earth". It may be in the running for the worst. You won't see the Canada's mainstream 'Salt o Poll' conducting any such surveys anytime soon.
Maybe next time they'll do something meaningful to help the downtrodden, the poorest of the poor, the helpless. Maybe next time they'll do something that will actually have an impact on the area. Maybe next time they'll be honest about the whole thing.
Starting with themselves. Down in Sam's Town.

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