In a move that has been in the works for the past several years, street vendors on the Downtown Eastside will be relocated to a designated building.
The move comes at the request of the vendors themselves, according to Vancouver City Councillor Andrea Reimer, since there has been a sharp rise in assaults of vendors on what’s called the “zero block” of East Hastings Street.
“They wanted a space that was more in their control,” Reimer told Vancity Buzz.
“The thing about vending, especially in a community like this, everybody sees the money change hands – they know who has the money on the street and you can be very vulnerable.”
For street vendors, it’s even worse, since in addition to money, they also have items. Reimer, who lived on the streets as a teenager, says for these vendors it’s a choice between saving their stuff and saving themselves.
The discussion of relocating the vendors has been in the works since 2010 and started with the creation of the Sunday market in Pigeon Park. Creating a safe, sustainable survival street vending location is part of the Downtown Eastside Plan.
The zero block of East Hastings comprises a stretch of the street between Carrall and Columbia Streets where vendors would sell goods – sometimes stolen – out in the open on the sidewalk, making it difficult to move. They’ve now been relocated from the north side of the street to a building on the south side at 62 East Hastings Street.
Reimer said many of the street vendors sell items such as household goods and second hand clothing in the market to fill in the gaps where their government income assistance falls short.
She mentions too that nobody is going to be forced to move to the new location – should the vendors want to stay on the street, that’s their prerogative.
“Our feedback from vendors tells us they want a much safer environment than that.”
So far, Reimer says they’ve been “cautiously positive” about the move, and there has been uncertainty about the motivations behind the move.
“Understanding that moving is hard on any of us under any economic standing – when you’re living on very tight margins, any change increases your vulnerability.”
The Downtown Eastside plan wants to support and create safe space for other vendors to sell things like arts, crafts, beadwork, local foods, flowers and to busk in retail areas.
To read the full Downtown Eastside action plan, click here.