Building hope in the inner city at the Carrall Street Market & Fair.

Each Sunday, the Carrall Street market and fair is a lively fixture in the inner city. Colourful blankets filled with found objects, art, and homemade goodies line Carrall Street as the market bustles with activity: volunteers organise vendors, musical acts entertain the crowd, shoppers browse items for sale, and vendors laugh with neighbours as they connect with each other. “It really has become a community event” says Dave, a volunteer Responsible Person in Charge (or R-PIC as the other volunteers refer to him), each week “I’ll run into people here that I haven’t seen for years.”

Baked goodies and other items for sale at the market. Photo credit: Lyn T. Black

Baked goodies and other items for sale at the market. Photo credit: Lyn T. Black

Lyn, the market coordinator, describes it as a “bona fide community event” that empowers the neighbourhood. “In this community, people often come together to fight for something or against something. This market is more of a positive force that the community came together to construct; it was built in a creative mood rather than a defensive mood and creates a different kind of energy that is unusual for this neighbourhood.”

The market, run by and for inner city residents, has been a profitable community building strategy for the past year that has changed the fabric of people’s lives in very tangible ways. Lorna, another volunteer R-PIC, explains that most of the vendors at the market are binners: people who work extremely long hours searching through dumpsters and garbage cans for things people have discarded, then transport and recycle or sell what they find. Says Lorna, “most of the people here are on welfare and are binning for survival; it is very hard to survive on welfare.”

Central City Foundation donors have been supporting binning, an innovative and sustainable street economic strategy, since 2006. With a considerable grant to provide 30 inventive UBU carts to United We Can  in 2006, CCF donors have contributed to economic and environmental transformation in the inner city. Read the story of that grant project here in our newsletter. Again in 2009, thanks to you our generous donors, CCF supported the binning industry with another grant to United We Can. These grants not only contribute to economic growth, but also foster environmental stewardship and dignity in the inner city.


A vendor sells what he has found while binning. Photo credit: Lyn T. Black

A vendor sells what he has found while binning. Photo credit: Lyn T. Black

Before the street market was created, binners and other inner city residents who were trying to make some extra money would try to sell their goods on the streets. Anthony, a vendor, explains that when the police try to crack down on people selling stolen goods, inner city vendors are inadvertently being targeted and issued tickets. He says “nobody deserves a $235 fine because you’re poor.” Instead of cutting down on theft, tickets end up further marginalising binners.

In response, organisers of the market strive to do things differently by providing a legal venue for binners to sell their finds without the risk of receiving illegal vending tickets, “we’ve created a space where people do not fear the police and a space for people to make a few extra bucks. Most people out here are on welfare… we’re talking about really poor people.” says Dave.

Dave especially enjoys telling one particular story about how the market is changing lives, “I spoke to people who were hoarders… Not criminals, but people who had traumatic experiences with authority figures in the past. They were so genuinely afraid of getting ticketed that they would just sit in their rooms and collect things.” When they saw Dave at the market they shared their story and thanked him. “They feel they can come here, sell these goods, and not have to worry about the police.”


Collected items sold at the market. Photo credit Lyn T. Black

Collected items sold at the market. Photo credit Lyn T. Black

Thanks to the ongoing support of generous donors, CCF was able to provide a grant matching City of Vancouver operating funds that will support a full time coordinator. The coordinator focuses on building a sustainable business model which will ensure future sustainability and growth of the market. “Our commitment to investing in innovative projects that truly have an impact and are building hope by improving lives in the inner city is illustrated in this grant to the DNC Street Market,” says Jennifer Johnstone, president and CEO of Central City Foundation, “the ongoing support of our generous donors allows us to maintain this commitment. We are excited to support the DNC Street Market which contributes to the betterment of the whole community by helping to clean up the negative streetscape on Hastings.”

Dave is so passionate about his neighbourhood and the market, he feels that people of the inner city “own (Carrall) street on Sundays,” by increasing stewardship of the street, “the market fits into all the initiatives that the city is getting into… it fits into the greenest city by 2020, it fits into car free days… we are the front line warriors in making this the greatest city in the world.”

When visiting the market, you can see both the economic and environmental impact it has on the neighbourhood. Hundreds of items bound for landfills are traded between neighbours at an affordable price. The small sums earned by each vendor may not seem significant to many folks, but for them “it means they don’t have to beg or stand in line for their next meal or cup of coffee” explains Dave.

Neighbours at the Market. Photo credit: Lyn T. Black

To volunteers and vendors, the market represents dignity at work; by revaluing space, work, and lives, the Carrall Street Market injects hope into the inner city.


Learn more about the DNC Carrall Street Market & Fair :

DNC Carrall Street Market & Fair web presence

Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council web presence


For over one hundred years, Central City Foundation has been a part of many stories like this through the commitment and generosity of our donors.

Because of neighbours like you, Central City Foundation is able to continue investing community donations back into the inner city, improving lives and building hope.

How do you build hope?