We met Cynthia and her partner near the safe injection site. They met each other three years ago. Cynthia is from the lower mainland area of Vancouver, and says getting through each day can be hard.
Through our conversation together, we learned a lot about the current issues that are present in Vancouver, some we knew about, and some that had never crossed our minds.
She affirmed that people often have the wrong idea when it comes to drug users: “Drug users are stupid and don’t know any better!” This type of prejudice is unfortunately very common among most populations, but the reasoning behind turning to drugs is a mystery. As Cynthia explained it, the consumption of drugs are often a result of trauma. She went on to describe how, when you run out of people supporting you, drugs are often the most accessible coping mechanism. One piece of advice she gave was to stop the constant reprimanding of young people from experimenting; “The more you say don’t do it the more they are going to want to do it.”
Another one of the main issues she identified in the community was the constant sexism and undermining of women. Over the course of three years as a resident there, she’s noticed that many men, of all ages and ethnicities, would assume she and other women were “working girls”, catcalling them and assigning them offensive names. Not only did she find violence between men and women, but she also noticed further verbal violence between women, describing the constant demeaning of one another.
The last, and most talked about issue, was the housing here in Vancouver. As we know, housing prices are very high, and for people who have low income due to hard times, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and even discrimination against them due to their situation, it’s even more difficult.
Our conversation with Cynthia and her partner broadened our understanding of the factors present in the lives of residents of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Her story mirrors that of many other residents of the neighbourhood, and we hope that a new chapter is on its way, with the support of HOPE.