People’s Pigeon Park

I took this photo of Vancouver’s “Pigeon Park” in 2007, while I was living there. One of the uses for the photo was a local Vancouver band called Pigeon Park. They contacted me a few months ago for permission to use the image on their CD. I’ve yet to see the results, but I wish them luck all the same.

Located on the corner of East Hastings and Carrall St, “People’s Pigeon Park” was both affectionately and contentiously named that because of it’s notorious Gastown residents. The human “pigeons” are made up of the homeless, drug users, dealers, mentally ill, the down-and-out and pretty much anyone else society tries to forget. I’ve often been told that this intersection houses (no pun intended) the densest population of homeless in all of Canada (in Winter) and of the West Coast of North America – a title many are outraged by and quietly proud of.

It’s both engaging and unbelievably saddening to witness so many people pushing their shopping carts and smoking their crack pipes at 10am. All this, right around the block from one of the city’s up and coming (and expensive) residential quarters and tourism centres.

Ask anyone who has lived long enough in Vancouver and they will impart some advice on conduct in the area, followed by some quirky/scary stories.
I once was taking photos for a local artist-run gallery (ACCESS), when a young man (definitely under 30 years of age) stopped me and somewhat anxiously asked if I could afford to buy him some cereal. He was desperate and down. I more than happily obliged; even bought him milk and a Nanaimo bar to have a decent meal. I was gobsmacked that it had gotten to this, for some guy not much older than myself, and that he had the courage to ask for help from a stranger. I only wish we could help more people, more significantly, regularly…

I’ve been told that since this photo was taken, the walls had been painted and the area “cleaned” out in time for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
I wonder what’s happened to the locals.

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