Trinity Western University

2010 News

TWU students conduct research on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and present revealing report to the City

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In Claudia Launhardt, Ph.D.’s anthropology 101 class, students designed a survey to examine recent developments and efforts to revitalize Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTE). A team of 32 students interviewed a total of 267 people – residents of Metro Vancouver and the DTE – over a six-week period. The survey explored what residents, homeless and those who are directly impacted by the changes have to say. 

The students presented their findings to the city of Vancouver Social Development Department, Community Services Group, Engineering Department and Chinatown Merchants Association on December 13, 2010. 

A city staff member asked the students how they managed to get participants for the survey. “We explained that the [residents] came up to us, asked what we were doing, and asked if they could be interviewed and be part of the research,” said Laura Klassen, third-year student. “[The staff] were pretty surprised by that.” 

Dr. Claudia Launhardt and students on DTEThis is not the first time Dr. Launhardt’s anthropology class conducted research with far-reaching results. In 2006, the class submitted a proposal to City Hall that gave suggestions for reducing public disorder in the DTE. They also conducted a survey asking DTE residents how the 2010 Olympics would affect their community and how the living conditions in their neighbourhood could be improved. One of the results of the survey was the installation of public toilets and public showers. 

“At Trinity Western University we encourage student learning by research, by experience and by engagement in social issues. All of those means are at work in the [2010] report,” said Robert Burkinshaw Ph.D., Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. 

This year’s class also spent two nights in a single-room occupancy (SRO) on the DTE and blogged about their experiences on impact.twu.ca. “During the night I woke up probably about seven times, at least,” said Jennifer Rumley, first-year student. “Traffic noise, sirens, people yelling and sirens stopping what it sounded like right outside our window – but I was thankful that I had a clean, dry and warm bed to sleep in as it snowed that night.” 

Dr. Launhardt challenges her students to consider a perspective unlike their own. “My goal, as a professor of anthropology is to be a communicator between different societies, a bridge builder, a transformer, bringing different segments of society together,” said Launhardt. 

The class brings together students across disciplines and academic years to engage in real-world issues. The type of research they conduct – non-commissioned and at university level – is not found elsewhere. The survey is honest; it gives a voice to the homeless and residents who aren’t normally represented in public discourse. As a result, city senior policy makers hold their analysis and ideas in high regard. 

“I believe that if true change is to occur in the DTE, people must be willing to invest themselves in long-term commitments, and take the time to build relationships,” said Angela Richards, anthropology student. “Progress cannot be made until outsiders stepping into the DTE are willing to become learners and come alongside the locals, rather than fixers coming in with an agenda.” 

Learn more about Dr. Launhardt and a former student’s experience on the DTE in the TWU impact video.

Read the full 2010 report here.

  • Last Updated on December 16th, 2010 at 1:54pm
  • Author: Jennifer Watton
  • Email: media@twu.ca
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