Homeless in Vancouver: More snow rains on back-alley binner parade

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      It’s snowing again.

      The welcome forecast of rain this Valentine’s Day changed at around noon to another five to 10 centimetres of snow, beginning in the late afternoon and segueing to icy—if not freezing—rain overnight.

      This is the worst news for the city’s army of binners and Dumpster divers. They really needed the rain to help wash away the snow in the back alleys.

      Instead the snow is getting reinforcements.

      Where the snow lives on and on

      The same alley, looking in the opposite direction.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Many binners and dumpster divers live hand-to-mouth and day-to-day. They simply go without if they cannot earn some daily money by selling what they find in the way of value in the garbage—discarded consumer electronics, returnable beverage containers, food, and the like.

      For four days now many of Vancouver’s urban recyclers have been going without.

      Four days is how long stubborn accumulations of snow (going back to February 10th) have made the back alleys difficult and dangerous going for foot traffic and bicycles, not to mention utterly impassable for those pushing shopping carts.

      Unfortunately for the less fortunate, back alleys do not rate any attention in the way of plowing and salting during a snow storm. For this reason, they are the first places in Vancouver where snow builds up and the last places that it leaves.

      So, while all sidewalks and main streets—as well as most side streets—in the Fairview neighbourhood have been utterly free of snow since Wednesday afternoon (February 13th), the same cannot be said of the back alleys.

      At 7 a.m. Valentines Day morning, the four long stretches of back alley I sampled were all covered in varying depths of packed snow, ridges of flash-frozen slush, and treacherous expanses of black ice.

      The wet, slushy mess at the mouth of an alley off West Broadway and Birch Street, yesterday at 4:48 p.m.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Had the rain and warmer temperatures arrived today, as originally predicted, I would have been alerting my readers to the pressing need that Vancouver binners would have for clean, dry socks—given the necessity for them to be tramping in sneakers and other absorbent footwear through back alleys thick with icy slush.

      The return of snow only postpones this need for dry socks—and only slightly and insofar as it postpones the melting of the snow and the return of binners and Dumpster divers to the back alleys.

      As it is, the snow (at 7:35 p.m.) is falling as slush and I’m told that the back alleys are as slick and treacherous as a wet ice rink! 

      Announcement of the impending blizzard may have been enough to briefly stop one of Vancouver’s notoriously snow-adverse electric trolley buses at 1:59 p.m.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine