The East Hastings Shuffle

Some of you who have read my blog for a while will recognize the title “The East Hastings Shuffle,” as a dance I invented a few years ago on my first visit to Vancouver when I was taken down Hastings by a dickhole friend.  After seeing East Hastings I would never again think that I had seen what poverty was in Calgary.  East Hastings was quite possibly the worst thing I had ever seen, and it changed me forever.

Think of the most decrepid place on Earth.  Think of all the sadness, all the filth, all the souls crying out for the slightest ounce of attention that would validate to them that they are even still alive.  Now throw in Satan.  Now times that by 100.  I think that’s what it feels like to walk down the poorest street in Canada.

The smell of urine floats in the air like a foul perfume.  There is clothing thrown on the streets, waiting to be picked up by the next person desperate enough to wear the filth.  You don’t want to look at anyone.  You don’t want to talk to anyone.  Your own guilt that you were born into a family that never had to see things like this is as evident as the freshly cleaned clothing you are parading around in. 

There is garbage everywhere.  There is pain everywhere.  You turn down multiple asks for money because really, do you have that much to give anyone yourself?  You’re just trying to make it out here, too.

You watch junkies shoot up on the street, right there in front of you, and you wonder what their life was like before all this…if you could call that a life.  It’s like a whole other world has plunked down in the middle of a vibrant city, and you don’t know which way is out. 

The poverty I see every time I go down that street makes me wish I could help more.  It makes me feel like I really should give someone some money when they ask for it.  Then I realize that if I gave money to everyone who needed it or asked for it down here, I would be close to living down there myself, and they’d all be back where they started.  Asking for another dollar.  Trying to get another hit, get another meal.  Get anything.

A man asked a group of us for money yesterday outside a shelter, and when we didn’t have any, he got so angry he threw a bottle and broke it right beside us.  I won’t say it wasn’t scary, but it was awful to watch the frustration and hate that these people feel to watch us walk away.  Because we get to walk away.  We have the choice to visit.  The option to leave.  We make the decision to visit, and then get to go home, to a real home.  Not a box on the street.  Not some paper in an alley.  We get to go home and have a meal.  We get to eat (mostly) whatever we want, and have the luxury of entertaining ourselves by going to visit the Ovaltine Cafe and tasting the cheap food.  Because it’s just for a moment.  But this is their whole life. 

13 Responses to “The East Hastings Shuffle”


  1. 1 Sandra January 28, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Wow. I know what East Hastings is like but I haven’t heard anyone articulate it so well. All I’ve ever been able to see by was of the long term effects of Hastings on someone was the look on my uncle’s face (he used to be a cop, and that was his district). Really well put

  2. 2 Goodboy Norman Featherstone January 29, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Geesh. That is heavy. It really puts life into perspective.

  3. 3 ultratoast January 30, 2008 at 3:49 am

    I’m glad you posted this. All we ever see over here is the nice airbrushed Vancouver. It’s good to see the darkside. Everywhere has one.

  4. 6 b b e February 22, 2010 at 11:46 am

    canadas worst neighbourhood is definately a sore spot to look at, but the poverty in canada isnt even conparible to what you see in the day to day life in South Anerica. East hastings is hardly a fraction of poverty in the rest of the world, yes its terrible, but you want an eye operner, go to bolivia, peru, ecuador. then you will really appriciate thing wonderful things we have at our finger tips in canada

  5. 7 Caroline February 26, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Very well done..

  6. 8 Madcrab April 29, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Nice writeup!

  7. 9 Anti Elvis May 13, 2011 at 7:27 am

    I wouldn’t feel bad not giving money to those living on East Hastings. That’s not the fix they need. What they need is support and understanding of society to help those out that are able to leave. We also, as a society, need to realize that we will throw good money after bad. Some people simply can’t be saved but we should try (even if it’s frustrating).

    Everyone needs a trip down East Hastings just to reset their own personal viewpoint on life.

    • 10 TANYA April 5, 2012 at 6:15 am

      AGREED!!!!, I WOULN’T THOW MONEY AFTER BAD, EVEN TO COMM. AQUANTANCE, WHO IN THAT PAIN PATH ALL THEIR LIFE, ALMOST ALL THEIR LIFE, THAEY NEED LOVE AND GOOD SUPPORT. GOD IS WITH THEM!!!!

  8. 11 sarah July 19, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Hey, I am doing a 5 min video for school (taking community mental health and addictions and I live in Victoria BC, been to east hastings) it is not going to be viewed by anyone other than my teacher. Its going to be something (just beginning) on East hastings and homelessness in Vancouver, concurrent disorders, drug abuse, harm reduction, etc. I wanted to know if I could take some sentences from this and put as slides in my video. The link will be referenced

    • 12 TAN. STRONG. April 5, 2012 at 6:28 am

      EAST SIDE VAN B C, HOMELESSNESS, CONCURRENT DISORDES, DRUG ABUSE, HARM REDUCTION AND ETC, JUST THE BEGINNING!!!! WATCH OUT!!!!

  9. 13 NOREEN September 28, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    I empathize with all of you it is really sad to see .But I have learned through the years of helping people . You can only help the people that want to be helped which are very few . Most would care to stay where they are and take what they can from anyone else . People are usually where there are because they want to be there . They just have to still eat and sleep .


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