The Great Divide: A photo essay of contrasts on Downtown Vancouver’s Abbott Street

Deep within the heart of Downtown Vancouver is Abbott Street. Looking north, it juxtaposes elements of Vancouver in its entirety. The left-hand side represents wealth and luxury, which is echoed in its sky-high condominiums, hipster restaurants and shops, and fashionable residents walking its streets. As if someone took a knife and sliced Vancouver in half, there is the right side of Abbott Street, where rampant homelessness and drug use are found outside of stores, medical clinics and within dirty back alleys.

It’s where Chinatown, the Stadium District, Gastown, and the Downtown Eastside blend together into a vibrant myriad – and some of us call it home.


Beginning in Downtown Vancouver’s historic “Gastown” neighborhood, Abbott Street starts in a division which is a touch hipster, gritty, and shining with vibrancy. Photo by Ashley Hyshka


At the corner of Keefer Place looking north, Abbott Street truly comes to life as a place of luxury and extravagance on the left-hand side, and graphic poverty on the right. The myriad of both high-rise condominiums and homelessness is a constant reminder that while you are in a high-end neighborhood, you’re only a few blocks away from the Downtown Eastside Photo by Ashley Hyshka


Blocks away from Abbott Street, but somewhere in the Downtown Eastside, a ray of early morning sunlight peeks through the crack of a dingy and ominous alley. Only moments before, I was warned by passersby not to flash around my expensive DSLR camera in this part of the city Photo by Ashley Hyshka


Stepping off the platform of the Stadium-Chinatown SkyTrain station, Abbott Street runs perpendicular to this area known as the “International Village”. The first thing a person notices is the vastly higher number of skyscrapers and high-end stores on the left-hand side of the street Photo by Ashley Hyshka


On the corner of West Hastings and Abbott Street, the Providence Crosstown Clinic is North America’s only clinic which administers medical-grade heroin and hydromorphone to chronic drug users in a supervised setting, according to their website. When walking by the clinic and the drug addicts, one tends to avoid making eye contact. Photo by Ashley Hyshka


A host of cafes, restaurants, and high-end boutique stores line this half of West Hastings Street. A hipster’s paradise, all that separates it from the Crosstown Clinic is Abbott Street. Photo by Ashley Hyshka


On the stairs of Roger’s Arena, home of the Vancouver Canucks, a SkyTrain barrels down the track. Reaching hundreds of feet into the air are the workplaces and homes of thousands of Vancouverites. During a Canucks game or concert, this area is crowded with people who can afford a ticket to such an event, and peppered with a few people who cannot Photo by Ashley Hyshka


Two blocks over from Abbott Street early one morning were the discarded remnants of a drug addicts latest fix. I had to avoid stepping on the syringes, drug paraphernalia, and rubber band that was once tied around someone’s arm, desperately trying to find a vein. Photo by Ashley Hyshka


Only feet away from the drug paraphernalia discarded on Powell Street, was a lonely note which read, “Hi Cathy, connections outreach just stopped by to see you. Could you please come in. Thank you, Guy.” Photo by Ashley Hyshka


One block over from Abbott Street, at the corner of Cambie and Water Street, is the famed Gastown Steam Clock, a local attraction for both tourists and locals alike. This beautiful memory exists only two blocks away from the feared East Hastings. Photo by Ashley Hyshka


Over 1,100 people have already died due to overdoses in British Columbia this year. A few blocks down from Abbott Street, over on East Hastings Street, stands a mural reading “We Are In The Middle Of An Overdose Crisis”. With six weeks remaining in the year, this is a number that will not only climb, but a desperate plea which will beg for anyone to listen. Photo by Ashley Hyshka


The golds and reds reflecting off the waters of False Creek represent the dozens of skyscrapers that adorn the city. Abbott Street ends at Pacific Boulevard, and on the left side of the street is BC Place and Rogers Arena, seen in the foreground. Tucked away somewhere in those lights is Abbott Street. Photo by Ashley Hyshka

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