In Search of Better Stories

Stinky Town and the Blessing of Rain

Never have I appreciated Vancouver rains more. Without them, the DTES quickly takes on the stench of an outhouse. With at least 4,000 homeless and probably twice that number forced to escape their tiny, filthy, sweaty, bug-infested SRO’s during hot days, the streets fill up with people. Public washrooms, in theory, are a good idea, but they are soon trashed, broken, or used for nefarious purposes and have to be closed down. Besides, it seems, that many who wander our streets roaming about for drugs, cans, bottles, food, or anything else that’s not bolted down don’t really care to have any sort of bathroom strategy.

When nature calls, a wall will do fine, a crevice, a corner, a bench, a back alley, a tree, a bush, behind a garbage bin – anywhere really. Pee or poo, male or female, it doesn’t matter. Every day on my walk to and from work, I descend into what looks and smells like a shit hole. I see more human feces than dog and more people relieving themselves in public than animals.

Just one of many landmines I have to watch for on my way to work!

Mercifully, the rain washes the stench away for a day or two. It’s a happy reprieve for my nostrils. I’m kind of used to it now. But should I be? Surely an advanced and progressive city such as ours shouldn’t have this problem. Just like a putrefying smell coming from a body is a sign of a greater systemic problem, so too is the smell of human shit wafting through the air on the DTES a clue to a much bigger problem we have in our society. A problem that has escaped any good solution thus far. As for me, I just thank God for the rain more than I ever have before.

The inside of an SRO. I rescued my friend from this dump and got him into a better place. BTW those smudges on the wall are bed-bug guts. How he managed to live here for 10 years I have no idea! But it’s little wonder he didn’t spend much time at home. Like most SRO’s the room doesn’t even come with a bathroom anyway.
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