Women-only recovery experi­ment: did it work or not?

For Sherri Johnstone, resident at the Rainier Women’s Treatment Centre in the Downtown Eastside, the last two weeks have brought on some tearful goodbyes. As Health Canada funding for the four-year pilot project ceased Dec. 1, Johnstone and the Rainier’s 37 current residents are adjusting to immediate cuts in staff and programming.

“It’s been hard,” says Johnstone, who struggled with crack addiction and failed at traditional treatment programs before she was referred to the Rainier in 2011. “We started to open up to these women and now they’re not here… Now we have to do that again with somebody else — it makes me feel like I’m almost back at day one again.”

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Residents of Asia Hotel asked to leave by summer

For two weeks of February, a notice posted in the Asia Hotel on Pender Street informed tenants they have to move out by the end of June. And while the announcement has since been taken down, pending building repairs suggest the 34 to 38 low-income, Downtown Eastside residents will still have to relocate in the coming months.

“We just found out our lease for the Asia Hotel will not be renewed,” read part of the notice, “and therefore everyone must be out of the building by the end of June this year.”

red gate 'order to vacate' stands

Red Alert

Just over a month after the New Pornographers headlined a free concert in Stanley Park celebrating Vancouver’s 125th birthday, the band’s recording studio and rehearsal space—located on the third floor of the Red Gate—has packed up permanently.

“We’re almost entirely moved out, sadly, but we’ve been there over six years,” says John Collins, bassist and multi-instrumentalist for the New Pornographers. “When Jim [Carrico] found the place we were the first people to get in there—before there was any electricity or water.”

Black to Basics

Though Vancouver may be a comfort zone for hometown heroes Black Mountain, the band has proven they’re willing to make leaps and bounds outside that space—and luckily, it’s playing off.

Reached from the Black Mountain tour van en route to Austin, Texas, bassist Matt Camirand opened up about their new album, new tour, and new approach to rock and roll.

Street Meet

In response to police crackdowns on vending along East Hastings Street, a new weekend market allows the neighbourhood’s hucksters to legally sell their wares. Every Sunday between noon and 5 pm, Downtown Eastside vendors are now able to lay out blankets of reclaimed clothes, electronics, toys and trinkets, without fear of hefty fines . . .

Street Pets

Jill Baron knows that caring for an animal is an immense responsibility.

Since she was four years old, Baron has been a devoted owner of many cats, dogs, birds and rodents. She even volunteered at the SPCA for 11 years. But last winter, Baron became homeless. Despite cold weather and colder criticism, Baron continues to care for three rats and two cats on the streets of Vancouver.

On a Commercial Drive sidewalk—in front of a Mr. Pets franchise—Baron sits cross-legged, reading a book. In front of her, she props up a small notebook that simply reads: ‘It’s easy to ignore me, but I do need your help.’

Quiet Riots

When it comes to punk and metal shows, there are few Vancouver venues as loud and proud as the Cobalt. Attached to a notorious Single Room Occupancy hotel, the hardcore bar is praised by fans as the last haven for underground and extreme music in Vancouver.

But after nine years of punk rock patronage, the Cobalt may have to shut its doors for being a little too noisy.

Art and Anarchy

There are many reasons to hate on the Olympics. Housing promises have been abandoned, the cost of living is rising, and millions of city dollars are being wasted—all for the sake of the 2010 Games.

So, if you like art, and want yet another reason to shake a fist at that hideous tooth-shaped Olympic countdown clock, mark your calendars for Friday, March 13. The unlucky night marks the beginning of an underground anti-Olympic art show called Art and Anarchy.

Whale Calling

The Olympics are coming and not even a $478 million in debt is going to stop it. So, to celebrate the impending 2010 Games, the folks at VANOC have arranged a 50-day cultural festival. Yes, the 2009 Cultural Olympiad is upon us.

With over 400 events scheduled from February 1 to March 21 (85 per cent of which are Canadian) this enormous arts expo promises to showcase a whole bunch of super-talented Canucks. Among the ranks of this year’s Cultural Olympians is a young Vancouver band by the name of Said the Whale. On March 6, the upbeat indie five-piece will play the Biltmore Cabaret along with Montreal-based Karkwa and Lucie Idlout from Nunavut . . .

Sound Advice

Despite a cold and steady drizzle, a crowd some 4,000-strong gathered at the corner of Hastings and Main streets on December 6th for an outdoor concert in support of Insite, Canada’s sole safe-injection site.

Held on the date of Insite’s fifth anniversary, the music and barbecue’s mission was to demand that Stephen Harper’s recently prorogued government keep the site operating. Vancouver rock quintet Black Mountain and Bedouin Soundclash lead singer Jay Malinowski were there to perform right on Insite’s doorstep.

Singing his praises

How do you pay tribute to the man who gave a voice (and a loud one at that) to Vancouver’s most disenfranchised neighbourhood?

Some visit Bruce Erikson Place—a social housing project on Hastings Street erected in his honour. Others have joined the Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association—a charitable community organization Erikson founded in 1973.

But former Vancouver Sun reporter and long-time Downtown Eastside resident Bob Sarti had something different in mind when he wrote Bruce: The Musical.