When i first moved to Vancouver, I was immediately drawn to its Downtown Eastside neighborhood—a place where drug deals are conducted openly; crack is smoked on the streets and in the alleys; women sell cheap alleyway blowjobs to support their habits; needles lie strewn on the ground; and men and women do strange dances down the streets in time to the beat of the cocaine coursing through their veins. It is Canada’s poorest postal code, located in an opulent city with some of the world’s most unaffordable real estate prices (second only to Hong Kong).

I think the attraction had to do with what had brought me to Vancouver in the first place: on the streets of the Downtown Eastside I felt a sense of kinship among others struggling, as I was, with the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

My experiences in the...

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