This evening my husband and I thought we would escape the sweltering heat of our home and take our children (ages 4 and 8) for a walk and play at our local park…Andy Livingstone. My family and I have lived in this area of Vancouver for 11 years now and have watched as more and more towers are built and more and more families move into the area, we love the community we are a part of. I am very aware of the “issues” that face my local neighbourhood and my children are learning first hand about the dangers of drug and alcohol use…they are also learning about compassion and understanding for their fellow citizens. Living in my community provides numerous opportunities for discussions about social issues on a daily basis.
But tonight I found myself thinking …”this is too much”! Tonight our family conversation about compassion for others and drug use in our community was all that we were able to discuss on our family outing. Why you ask? Here is a break down of my family’s experience as we strolled our neighbourhood at 6:30 this evening for a 20 min walk.
1) As we left our apartment building at Taylor and Keefer we watched 4 woman (one in a wheelchair) bath in our buildings fountain. I had seen these same women in the fountain hours earlier and had decided to let them be…it was hot after all (I am on our buildings strata council and we often receive complaints from residents regarding this issue). My children’s question,”What are they doing….having a bath?”
2) We crossed the street and decided to walk around the park for some exercise, as we passed the bus stop my children observed an older man passed out on the bench. My children”s second question, “Is he alright?”
3) We decided to go to the newer wooden playground at the corner of Carrell and Keefer. From the day this playground opened it has been an issue…needles, garbage, people sleeping, people cooking . I have made numerous phone calls and written about this playground. Today the playground had two young women sitting on a bench openly doing drugs and under the playground a man sleeping. Obviously we decided to continue walking. As we walked by one of the woman said to me “…oh do you want to use the playground? I looked at her and said “..this is really not the place for what you are doing.”
4) As we approached the baseball diamond at AL park we saw two men sitting near the dug outs. When they saw the children one of the men quickly put away whatever it was they were doing…looked at me and said “..sorry about that..” I can only assume that what they were doing was drugs.
5) As we made our way around the park we next passed the tennis courts. Since my children were full of energy I said “…go ahead and run around the empty court..”. As we approached the second tennis court we saw a huge display of shopping carts, trunks, umbrellas and garbage on the court. My children commented “…that must be someones home..”. As we walked by I could see a woman’s head down below…a mans head then popped up from behind the umbrellas. I can only assume that they were having sex or doing drugs…or maybe both.
6)We had now reached the corner of Columbia and Keefer. As we walked by we observed on the corner of the grass, off to the side of the sidewalk two extremely high individuals…the kind of high when your eyes roll to the back of your head and you can’t stand. My children have seen this “high” often and know what it is….”…she’s on drugs Mommy..”
7) We had now decided to head to home…our lovely evening stroll was becoming not so enjoyable. As we walked the block of Keefer beside the soccer fields we observed garbage, needles, smelled the strong smell of cigarettes and marijuana and observed more high individuals passed out (or close to it) laying on the park benches.
I came home and decided to write to you and share my family’s experience. I want you to know what it is like for my children, what they see and experience every day in my neighbourhood of Vancouver.
To be honest I don’t think there is anything that can be done or will be done. I believe that my children will just have to adjust to life with needles, garbage and drugs all around them. They will have to adjust to not being able to access their local playground, tennis courts, baseball diamond or even appreciate the water fountain in their own apartment building. This is sad…parks and playgrounds should be available for all individuals of our city, they should be safe and clean environment for everyone to use. Unfortunately for my children it seems they are not the ones able to use their local park….it is instead being made available for those who choose to make the small amount of green space we have available…unsafe, unclean and not usable.