Vancouvers Downtown Eastside is the poorest neighborhood in British Columbia--in all of Canada, for that matter.
No other slum or ghetto in the country matches the squalor of this 10-block urban wasteland, with its rundown hotels and pawn shops, stained and fractured sidewalks, gutters and alleyways littered with garbage, used condoms and discarded hypodermic needles. Its cold heart is the intersection of Main and Hastings, nicknamed Pain and Wastings by the denizens who know it best.
In 1998 they averaged one death per day from drug overdoses, the highest rate in Canadian history.
But there were other dangers on the street, as well.
The first black victim, Kathleen Wattley, was 39 years old when she vanished in June 1992, reported missing on the 29th of that month.
The unknown predator(s) took a three-year vacation before claiming 47-year-old Catherine Gonzales in March 1995, her disappearance reported to authorities on February 9, 1996.
Around the same time, competition among drug cartels flooded the district with cheap narcotics, encouraging a new generation of addicts to turn on, tune in and drop out.
Again the hunt was stalled, this time until October 1996, when 24-year-old Tanya Holyk disappeared (reported on November 3).In 1994, federal cutbacks left welfare recipients short of cash, while mental hospitals disgorged patients onto the streets.By 1997, careless sex and shared needles had taken their toll in Low Track, one-fourth of the neighborhoods residents testing HIV-positive.Low Tracks recent history is a tale of unrelenting failure.Vancouver lured affluent tourists by the hundreds of thousands to Expo 86, but the prospect of easy money brought a corresponding influx of the poor and hopeless, most of them gravitating to Downtown Eastside.