April 19, 2010
One will find many street vendors scattered along the streets in Vancouver’s Down Town East Side. A blanket is spread out on the sidewalk displaying pretty much anything you can imagine. Shopping carts unpack clothing, DVD’s, knick-knacks, small appliances…. anything that will fetch a couple of dollars. Some of the vendors are out every day… some only come around in the last few days before Mardi Gras. There is a block on Hastings (just in front of the bottle depot) which carries the air of a Turkish Bizarre. Weaving through the crowd shoulder to shoulder with vendors, buyers and bottle pickers, I’m always a little awe struck. You can expect to be approached by several people, some will be selling packs of cigarette for $5 but other will be selling crack, meth or prescription drugs, even blocks of cheese. Blanket Vendors line the building walls with an assortment of goods including groceries and somewhat questionable meat products, one guy even had a 6’ bookcase…. which was sold and carried off by a guy with a shopping cart.
The police don’t seem to be overly vigorous in ticketing the sellers… which is good. These miniature yard sales are considered “crimes of poverty” which would be best handled by eliminating poverty. I suppose they keep an eye on the drug dealers but an actual “take down” in that environment would be really difficult. It is doubtful anyone would be holding enough product to make a bust worth the paperwork.
A block up from the bizarre is a variety store, which also sells prepared fast food and has a few tables for seating. I bought a slice of pizza and a grape soda for $2 and settled in. The Mid-Eastern gentleman (probably the owner) greeted each customer with a warm smile. He listened patiently to stories and laughed at the somewhat bad jokes. He was running tabs for some of the old guys who came to pick up lunch. This is just another example of community support for the DTES homeless and poor. Everyone seems to go above and beyond the call of duty.