New Walking Tours show realities of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, October 8-13

Photo credit: RayVanEng | Flickr

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is one of the oldest and poorest neighbourhoods in the city, with a disproportionate amount of homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction.

It’s also the site of the city’s newest walking tour, the Eastside Stride.

The two-hour, guided tours are being offered four times a day this week as part of Homelessness Action Week.  The tours are led by trained guides and organized by two local outreach organizations, the Union Gospel Mission and Mission Impossible.

Groups visit 26 sites in the Downtown Eastside, while getting an overview of the area’s history and social issues, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun.  Stops include Pigeon Park Savings, where the homeless do banking, Quest affordable grocery store and the Carnegie Centre, which is known as the Downtown Eastside’s living room.

Other highlights include the refurbished Oppenheimer Park, which was home to the Vancouver Asahi Japanese baseball team prior to World War II.   In addition, groups visit Chinatown, Strathcona and the former Hogan’s Alley, once home to a large black community before being replaced by the Georgia Street viaduct.

Photo credit: UncleBuddha | Flickr

The tour makes a point to also show the harsh realities in the neighbourhood, including the difficult conditions in single-residency occupancy housing and the high proportion of first nations people living in poverty in the Downtown Eastside.

Organizers emphasize that the experience is “not about exploiting, condemning or romaticizing the Downtown Eastside . . . It’s simply presenting what is and what was.”

The Eastside Stride guided tour is free.  It’s offered from Tuesday, Oct. 9-Saturday, Oct. 13, at 10 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.  Sign up online at the United Gospel Mission website.

You can also participate in a self-guided audio tour, using your smartphone.  Tour points are highlighted on your phone’s screen as you listen to descriptions.

What do you think about the Eastside Stride?  Would you take a walking tour of the Downtown Eastside?  

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