Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Selling Trash Salvages Livelihoods at Weekly Downtown Eastside Lawn Sale

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Selling Trash Salvages Livelihoods at Weekly Downtown Eastside Lawn Sale

Article excerpt

Homeless hawkers make living from free lawn space


VANCOUVER - Every Sunday, Bruce Sauer bundles up old videos, audio equipment, jewellery boxes and hand-carved pipes and carts his wares to no-ordinary garage sale in a Vancouver park.

Sale of the items represents more than just a sizable chunk of income for him in one of Canada's poorest neighbourhoods.

"Instead of going and standing in the food lines, it gives you dignity," said Sauer, while surrounded by fellow vendors in the small space he's claimed. "You invest in a little store when you come out here and you make a couple hundred (dollars) a week. It's good for the area."

Sauer, an aging man with an eye patch and white beard, joins dozens of hawkers once a week in a place called Pigeon Park in the city's Downtown Eastside. Anyone residing in the area is permitted to set up shop in the market that's been established by local volunteers with permission of the city.

Running for at least 215 consecutive Sundays since 2010, the pop-up market delivers considerable social benefits that organizers say range from improved-personal welfare to saving the environment.

Paying no vending fees, individuals who live in low-income housing and homeless shelters sell goods that organizers estimate bring in at least $10,000 each Sunday.

"Which is more than half-a-million dollars a year put in the hands of the lowest-income vendors in the poorest postal code in Canada," said coordinator Roland Clark. "We think it's a very significant social program. And we run it for a fraction of the cost."

The market's operating budget is derived from a $30,000 City of Vancouver grant, of which Clark said $550 is spent each week. He said organizers are working with the city to establish a more-permanent venue.

Wandering through the market reveals a colourful assortment of items, though consumers may wonder whether their sources were legitimate.

An Xbox 360 video game console can be spotted amongst neatly folded blue jeans, old-school records, tools and old toasters. Three years ago, someone was hawking an ultrasound machine.

"It's incredible what people throw into the trash, which is how most of the stuff becomes scrap here," said Clark, decked out in a neon crossing-guard uniform. …

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