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Five tangible actions to improve community safety in Chinatown

By Vancouver Sun |

When I was young, I spent a lot of time in Chinatown. It was the only place where my immigrant parents could find Chinese grocers. I also attended school there.

I still remember buying groceries with my mom in Chinatown. I remember the smell of the fish markets, and the sounds of streets and shops filled with people speaking different Chinese dialects.

In recent years, however, many long-standing businesses have shuttered their doors. Concerns about safety and cleanliness within Chinatown have increased, especially around graffiti and human waste sometimes being found outside businesses and in public spaces.

Of course, a big reason for this is the pandemic. With fewer people visiting Chinatown, there have been fewer customers, and fewer eyes and less activity on the street.

Another key factor, which has been a long-standing problem, is the insufficient affordable housing options and support services in Vancouver for people facing substance use, mental health, or food security challenges. Those that are available are heavily concentrated in the Downtown Eastside, right next door to Chinatown, instead of being distributed across the city.

There are tangible actions to make Chinatown safer and more comfortable for residents, businesses, and visitors. Having worked at the city as an urban planner, I know these actions are complex, and often involve significant funding and need multiple partners to work together. However, through conversations I’ve had with merchants and organizations in Chinatown, it’s clear these actions are urgently needed to make Chinatown vibrant again.

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