British Columbia

CBC hosts town hall on despair, addiction, poverty in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

Overdose deaths, homelessness and mental illness are more apparent in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside than any other neighbourhood. At this town hall, we talk about the issues and consider solutions.

Town hall takes place on Sept. 7 at noon at the Woodward's Courtyard in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

An alley behind Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, on Friday, Sept. 6. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Overdose deaths, homelessness, and mental illness affect all communities in British Columbia, but in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, those problems are concentrated.

From a rise in crime, to an addictions crisis, failed public policy, and development that has squeezed the population into a smaller and smaller geographic area, longtime residents say the neighbourhood — one of the country's poorest — is getting worse and worse

CBC hosted a public town hall on Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Woodwards Courtyard in Vancouver from noon to 1:30 p.m. PT. 

Hosts Stephen Quinn, Mike Killeen and Anita Bathe were joined by four panellists:  

  • Karen Ward is a long-time drug user and advocate for drug users. She consults with the City of Vancouver on drug policy and lives at Woodward's social housing. 
  • Robin Raweater is an Indigenous activist and has lived in the Downtown Eastside her whole life, currently in a shelter. She co-chairs the board of directors for the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre and runs a support group for families dealing with child welfare. She is Blackfoot from Siksika Nation in Alberta.
  • Fred Mah is the president of the Chinatown Society Heritage Building Association. He has volunteered in Chinatown for five decades. 
  • Brandon Grossutti is the owner of Pidgin Restaurant. Six years ago, when he opened, the restaurant was the target of anti-gentrification protests. 
Join CBC for a look at how overdose deaths, homelessness and mental illness have affected Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and communities across B.C., as well as possible solutions. 1:25:03