Peter Kryszkiewicz renders the Downtown Eastside in 3-D
A model community
“When people are homeless, no matter how they got there, they try to make their environment livable. Me, I tried to make a livable space for myself by combining my situation with my interest in the outdoors. So I moved all the way up Mount Seymour, as far back as I could on the trail system.
“I created a permanent structure. I had a cabin floor and a wood stove. I had power, after a while, through a generator. But the Seymour parks rangers found my place eventually by following the trail of smoke. And they gave me the ultimatum: move out of there, or we’ll fine you.
“I think you can look at things cup half full or cup half empty. So I took it. I left. But before I made my own kind of decisions about where I was going to move, I stopped at the Aboriginal shelter as I usually do when I come into town—that’s kind of my home away from home in the Downtown Eastside.
“When I got there, it was close to 11 p.m. That was the deadline for checking in. I knew that if I didn’t get in that night, I’d have to go all the way up Seymour in the dark in extreme rainfall.
“One of the people at the Community Builders Network was there, scouting for people that would fit their transitional housing plan. And I was at the right place at the right time because they signed me up. I had a key to my own room in transitional housing in really a matter of 45 minutes.
“So instead of having to climb up Mount Seymour in the dark and in the rain, I was suddenly in a beautiful environment, at the old Ramada Inn at Cassiar and Hastings, with three free meals a day and a really clean and livable room, your own bathroom, a kitchenette, appliances, everything for $375 a month [the current rate set aside for housing for individuals on income assistance in B.C.]. It was serendipity.
“I’ve started rebuilding some of the stuff that I abandoned before I became homeless, the artistic side. Most of my talent is in 3-D computer animation, and I’m also a software developer.
“I decided to model the entire 100 block of East Hastings. The Downtown Eastside is the most architecturally interesting part of the city. And aside from the architecture, it’s a really dynamic place. Through my art, I’d like to show sides of the Downtown Eastside that aren’t obvious to people that live here or people who visit: a kind of crack in the reality that you peer through.
“My 3-D models are generated the way a painter normally would paint a picture. But since I’m using a virtual camera as a paintbrush, I can move that camera around and even put the sun where I want it.
“But nothing is all sunshine and silver linings. There’s a dark side, too—the dark side defines the light side. By showing both sides, I hope to do the same thing that poets do, but visually.
“Recovery here in the Downtown Eastside is a lot easier than in the suburbs, where I’ve been before. Here, you’re surrounded by friends and a lot more support and community.
“You can really evolve quickly if you want to here. You can move faster in any direction here than anywhere else.”
Peter Kryszkiewicz is a former Megaphone vendor and a former participant in Megaphone’s creative writing workshop. He’s now at work on 3-D renderings of the Downtown Eastside that he hopes to showcase in a public exhibition.