I am going to spend December 23rd to 30th sleeping on the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Downtown Eastside (DTES) is known as one of North America’s poorest communities. This community is frequently under attack by the media, which labels the DTES as a dangerous, lazy, sick, and unproductive part of our society. I will spend my Christmas holidays on the streets of the DTES to form my own conclusions.
I will be starting with no money, a sleeping bag, and enough clothes to keep me warm during the winter holidays. I decided to do this project to raise awareness about homelessness and to remind some of us how fortunate we really are. I would like to dedicate this Christmas getting to know some of the people who consider the streets their home.
I am blessed to be born into a gracious family. Therefore, I want to apologize to them for not being able to attend Christmas dinner this year. Your support and love has surrounded me throughout my life. It is because of you that I feel obligated to give back to the community.
I have set myself a few guidelines to follow while living on the streets. I may panhandle to raise money for food. I will not take drugs, smoke, or drink with any money that I shall receive. The money I make from panhandling will be donated 10-fold to an organization that I believe provides the most benefit to homelessness. All of my conversations and experiences will be documented in my notebook, which will be updated throughout the day.
Since I will be living on the streets for 7 nights, 77 meals were donated to the Union Gospel Mission even before I set out on the streets. Moreover, I am vegetarian, so if somebody was to buy me a pepperoni pizza or give me a turkey dinner, I will eat it rather than waste it.
I will try my best not to take advantage of any homeless shelters provided by our city. However, I may pick one night to stay at a shelter so that I can document my experiences. I am not here to take advantage of any resources required for the homeless. Instead, my experiences are to be shared with those who are interested in bridging the gap between “us” and “them”.
I realize that other Vancouver residents have done similar projects in the past. The following documentaries may be of interest to you with regards to this topic: Streets of Plenty, Carts of Darkness and Through a Blue Lens.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.
Today is December 30, 2010 and my project has been successfully completed. Over the next few days, I will transcribe the 120 pages that I have written in my journal into a shorter and more readable format. As I went through my journey, my outlook and purpose changed into something completely different.
What you are about to read is a collection of real people having real conversations in the Vancouver Downtown Eastside. Most of these conversations took place in alleys, some at coffee shops and others at community centers. I would like to thank everybody I met along the way, and everyone who made this project possible.
Please read the following posts with an open heart and open mind. My experiences have changed my life in a positive way. I am certain that it will have the same effect on you as well.
Happy New Year.