On Thursday, the Vancouver Sun ran an article about Governor General Michaelle Jean’s meeting with Bernie Williams and other women at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center to discuss homelessness. The lead in the article was: “In the bitter cold one night this week, Bernie Williams took photographs of 59 homeless people she found sleeping along three blocks of Hastings Street.”

Is Bernie Williams a mathemagician?

I’ve lived in the Downtown Eastside for 20 years and I’ve never spotted 59 people sleeping on the street at night in the entire neighbourhood, let alone on a mere three blocks of Hastings.

But don’t take my word for it. Walk along Hastings yourself some night; see if you come across 59 sleeping homeless people.

When I asked other Downtown Eastside residents about the 59 homeless people
Williams claims to have photographed sleeping, two showed their skepticism with similar
comments: “Where are the photographs?”, “Let’s see the photographs.”

One skeptic said that if you walk along Hastings as far as First United church
at Gore, you will see homeless people sleeping on the steps.  Or if you go to the Main St. side of the old bank at Main & Hastings, there are three or four people who sit there drinking during the day, and sleep there at night. But he said that the maximum number
of homeless people you would come across walking along Hastings – he’s counting those mentioned above – would be ten. And he’s lived on the Downtown Eastside for 35 years. 

Another thing: if you think you can photograph 59 people on Hastings St. without getting people pissed off, maybe even getting your camera grabbed, good luck. Nancy Graves, a street worker assigned the task of walking around and approaching homeless people to get them expedited welfare and housing, has told the media that she uses cigarettes to break the tension when she approaches homeless people. She holds out a cigarette as an offering, as she finds they can be suspicious and hostile.

Before Williams claimed to have photographed 59 homeless people sleeping on Hastings St., she had earned a reputation for seeing more homeless people on the Downtown
Eastside than Downtown Eastside residents are seeing. . . .

Read the rest of this original story at the Downtown Eastside Enquirer 


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