Homelessness is not new to Vancouver. There have been homeless people in Vancouver since it was founded in 1886. As in other major North American cities, until the late '70s and early '80s homelessness in Vancouver followed the economic logic of boom and bust capitalism.
However, since the run-up to the World Exposition of 1986, that logic has no longer been the determining factor influencing the growing number of homeless in the city. The "new poverty" that emerged in the 1980s is a product of the transition from an industrial-based capitalist economy to a post-industrial, global economy and a culture of consumerism, and the images of the homeless continue to haunt our social imagination.
Michael Barnholden holds a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Sciences from Simon Fraser University, and is associate director of Humanities 101 at the University of British Columbia. A member of the board of the Kootenay School of Writing, managing editor of the literary magazine West Coast LINE, Barnholden is the author of several books of poetry and non-fiction, including Reading the Riot Act (Anvil Press, 2005) and Circumstances Alter Photographs (Talonbooks 2009).
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