About UGM Services Stories Videos Get Involved Donate to Union Gospel Mission

Click Here For Common FAQs About The Eastside Stride

Homelessness Action Week

The Eastside Stride

The Eastside Stride is a Homelessness Action Week (HAW) project that was offered from October 12 to 20, 2013 to anyone who wanted to know more about the Downtown Eastside (DTES), past and present. The two-hour walking tour was developed by UGM in partnership with Mission Possible and with support from the City of Vancouver and numerous local service providers. It existed to promote education, dismantle some of the negative stereotypes and build awareness about the vibrant and sometimes complex community within Greater Vancouver. It also existed to give employment to local residents in an empowering and dignified manner. All walks are free of charge.

The Audio Tour

The guided walking tours are now concluded, however you can take a self-directed audio tour. While effectively the same as the guided your, it conducted on your own time through the use of your cell phone and head phones. You can view the tour points through your phone’s screen as you listen to your tour guide. Note: The Audio Tour requires cell phones with a data plan. The tour works best with iPhones and Androids

In order to ensure maximum respect and care for the neighbourhood, and minimum disruption, UGM has a number of guidelines that must be agreed upon in order to be emailed the password for the audio tour. To view the guidelines and request the password, please click on the right.

Tour Preview


Play | Pause

Sample Tour Point

Play | Pause


Please try the above audio preview on your phone before attempting to start the audio tour to ensure that your device is compatible

*To learn more about other events taking place during Homelessness Action Week in Vancouver, visit: http://vancouver.ca/homelessness-action-week


Back to top

Guided Tour Sign Up Form

We're delighted you're going to walk the Eastside Stride! Note that we are still adding walks as the demand grows, so if you sign up for a waistlisted time, we can often accommodate a time close it.

Once you complete the form below, you will receive an automated reply indicating we've received your submission.


Back to top

The Eastside Stride:

What You Need to Know Before You Start

All Tours

  • Please read the section below on taking photos
  • Participants must be 18 or older, or 15-17 and accompanied by a parent or guardian
  • Guided tours: Meet in the Union Gospel Mission lobby (601 East Hastings) at least 10 minutes before your tour start time
  • Wear comfortable, close-toed shoes
  • Wear casual, modest and comfortable clothing
  • Don’t bring valuables or a lot of money
  • Check the weather – bring rain gear and an umbrella if needed
  • Please don’t stare at others who may be different from yourself
  • Remain alert and aware of your surroundings while on the tour


Audio Tour

  • The tour begins at 601 East Hastings (Union Gospel Mission)
  • Copies of the map are available inside the UGM lobby for anyone taking the audio tour
  • When walking between tour points, remove your head phones and remain alert and aware of your surroundings. Take in the sights and sounds.
  • Don’t take the tour alone
  • Take the tour during daylight hours


Taking Photos

  • Out of respect for the neighbourhood, and for your own safety, please do not take photos during most of the tour
  • If you would like to take photos, please do so only from Points 11 – 15 and Points 17-19 (CRAB Park, Gastown and Chinatown). Thank you in advance for adhering to this important boundary.



Back to top


Frequently Asked Questions

Recently there has been some misinformation regarding UGM’s Eastside Stride initiative for Homelessness Action Week. We thought it helpful to clarify some misconceptions with some FAQs.

  1. What is the purpose of the Eastside Stride?
    The purpose of the Eastside Stride is to break-down misconceptions about the Downtown Eastside helping it become a beloved part of Vancouver. Cities protect what they value—not what they don’t care about or understand. This is accomplished by walking the diverse neighborhoods showing the beauty and the history, while celebrating the successes, and remembering the losses. The key issues are not ignored, but discussed and put in context. Guides do not give personal opinions but simply present the various sides of the debates.
  2. Is the Eastside Stride a fundraising initiative?
    While one could probably run the Eastside Stride as such, the Eastside Stride does not function as a fundraising venture. The project was designed by the small team at UGM (Community Engagement) tasked with engaging the greater community for the purpose of tackling (and working towards alleviating) the root causes of key issues on the Downtown Eastside.

    Such a large, solutions-oriented attempt takes engaging the rest of Vancouver, partnering with others and taking risks to try new things. There is much discussion and many decisions being made about the DTES, but few have ever come down to walk the streets of such a vibrant and amazing community.

    The Eastside Stride is free of charge, and participants are encouraged to connect with any of the service providers they encounter should they want to get more involved. They can visit www.ugm.ca/ididthestride to get information on other service providers.

    And while this Eastside Stride project does not raise funds, nor was it designed to, UGM is proud of its fundraising initiatives. Without them, UGM could not exist to help and support the 1000s that it does each year.
  3. Who guides the Eastside Stride?
    The guides are those who have lived in the Downtown Eastside community, most of whom have overcome homelessness and some have overcome addiction. Those who participate are doing so as a stepping stone to employment and/or already have employment but are proud of the neighbourhood and want to show off their great community. The guides are paid thanks to a grant from the City of Vancouver. We had more community members hoping to be guides we were able to facilitate.
  4. Is the Eastside Stride a “poverty tour?”
    No. Regardless of whether one believes “poverty tours” should have a place or not, the Eastside Stride is actually the opposite of that. The drive down East Hastings is inadvertently the “poverty tour”. That negative understanding is all many people in Vancouver know of the Downtown. The Eastside Stride seeks to change that, with its mandate being “to help make the Downtown Eastside a beloved part of Vancouver”. The Eastside Stride takes people through many of the vast and historic areas (including Gastown, Chinatown, Strathcona and Oppenheimer) to show the beauty, history and diversity and to celebrate some of the successes. The issues are not ignored or sugar-coated, however, and are put in historical and present day context. The Downtown Eastside is shown in much of its entirety, with the lesser populated part of the Hastings corridor being walked for a small portion of time.

    The walk was designed to avoid many of the heavily populated areas, as the goal is not to point out the individuals who live there, but the buildings. Participants get to know their guide, a community member, and the goal is not to deliberately disturb anyone else, though they have welcome to engage as they so choose, as many have done, quite positively. We have countless stories of how surprised and impressed walk participants were by the joy and inclusiveness of people they encountered.

    Unfortunately, the fact that people think “poverty tour” when they hear the words “walking tour of the Downtown Eastside” just goes to show how critical something like the Eastside Stride is. Negative stereotypes and extreme poverty should not be the first and only things that come to mind when a visit to the neighbourhood is suggested.
  5. Do the walks “people watch?”
    Absolutely not. See paragraph #2 of above. The landmarks/stopping points are buildings, not people. In some of the more troubling areas, the landmarks are not discussed out in front of the building.
  6. When do the walking tours occur?
    They occurred for one week during Homelessness Action week 2013 and for one week during Homelessness Action Week 2012.
  7. Have you received any complaints from the community about the walking tours?
    We have received hundreds of encouraging and glowing accolades, but we received our first direct complaint to date on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. We were very thankful to receive this feedback as we take community opinion very seriously. The individual has agreed to work with us to determine how we will proceed for Homelessness Action Week 2014.
  8. Did members within the DTES community know about the Eastside Stride?
    The Eastside Stride was designed with some members from within the community as well as from some service providers in an effort to try to determine (1) which information was essential to cover (2) how the details of that walk would be designed. Great care was taken to figure out the best way to accomplish this.

    Prior to the Stride, UGM canvassed the neighbourhood, community members and service providers (to inform community members) that the walking tours would be taking place during homelessness action week.
  9. Why won’t you run the Eastside Stride year-around?
    The walks are extremely powerful for helping Vancouverites see and understand how important the Downtown Eastside and all the amazing things taking place in the area. As some neighbourhoods on the DTES struggle more than others, the information on the walk provides background on what is transpiring. Much of the feedback we get is along the lines of “everyone in Vancouver should do this” and “you should run this year around”. While Homelessness Action Week is a special time to dive into the issues and learn, we want to be careful to not disturb the neighbourhood. Running them on an on-going basis would run the risk of doing that.
  10. Is UGM the only group to have offered walking tours of the area?
    No. Numerous groups have been offering tours of the neighbourhood for years and do so throughout the year.
  11. Why do some guides use voice amplifiers?
    When we ran the Eastside Stride in 2012, the biggest complaint we had was people couldn’t hear well above the traffic. About half of the guides, the more soft spoken ones, had a small voice amplifier attached to their hip or inside their jacket.
  12. How many participants can take the Eastside Stride at one time?
    In order to be respectful to the community, groups are deliberately kept small, typically eight people, but sometimes they were over-full with 10, in case of “no shows”.
  13. Why does it matter what Vancouverites think of the Downtown Eastside?
    There is much talk of the Downtown Eastside, and decisions being made about it, but so few people have actually taken the time to walk the streets and appreciate the neighbourhood. The feedback we get, is those people who take the Stride have a completely different (and very positive) understand of the neighbourhood, it’s community, and its value, and are keen to do what they can to help support the community.


We really appreciate your feedback, so if you have any comments, questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact us at communityengagment@ugm.ca and we will get back to as soon as we are able.