Politicians, community workers or cultural leaders: whose job is it to fix Vancouver's loneliness?
Affordability issues and lack of social connection are listed as common reasons behind isolation
Vancouver can be a pretty lonely place — but whose job is it to fix that?
Theories about why Vancouverites feel isolated are flying around: the housing crisis and affordability, overly regulated public spaces and low levels of community connection are often listed as reasons.
"I'm priced out of this market and I'm working 80 hours a week right now," said Brice Forman, who recently moved to Vancouver.
"If I'm at the coffee shop or I'm walking down the street, I don't have that spare energy to give someone a look in the eye and say 'Oh hi, human. I acknowledge you.' I'm more like — 'Get out of my way. I need to get home.'"
'Lower the costs'
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart draws a strong connection between affordability and the city's "no fun" reputation.
"The larger social problems we have are economic problems that trickle down to our everyday lives," Stewart said.
He's pushing for affordable housing — particularly for households making less than $80,000 a year — as the solution.
"[We have to] try to lower their costs to live in this city," he said.
"Then they'll have more free time and a little bit more free dollars to kind of spend on things that would bring them together with other people."
Kim Winchell, director of social impact at the United Way of the Lower Mainland, agreed that a lack of time — whether from working long hours or because of a lengthy commute and lack of funds — makes connecting with others more challenging.
But it's not a hopeless situation, she believes.
"Social isolation isn't an ignorable issue," Winchell said.
"Start small — [by] saying hello to people, inviting your neighbour up to the local park if that's where you're going, meeting people where they're at, in coffee shops and grocery stores."
Watch the panel discussion below:
'Malaise of modernity'
For Kwantlen First Nation cultural educator Luke Dandurand, part of the solution to combating social problems lies in having a strong sense of self.
"This malaise of modernity … is this isolation that we've kind of created for ourselves that we have to overcome," Dandurand said.
"Learning about who you are is a really good way to start."
He helps Aboriginal children learn and connect with their cultural backgrounds.
"If you know where you're from and what your name is — that's how you prove to be successful as an Aboriginal person. That's how you get your status and your wealth," he said.
"It's not from how much money is in my wallet."
This story is part of the radio and web series, Pretty Lonely, which looks into why many Metro Vancouver residents in their 20s and 30s experience social isolation.
The five-part radio series, which airs on CBC Radio Nov. 19-23, is produced by Jennifer Wilson, this year's recipient of Langara College's Read-Mercer Fellowship.