Dear Pen Pals...

Do you have a question about drug use, addiction, mental health, relationships, sexuality, or other life issues? We've got you covered.

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Are there things you’ve always wondered about but have felt too uncomfortable to ask someone? Is there an issue you just don’t understand but would like to learn more about? Do you need life advice?

Megaphone has the answers you need.

Welcome to Pen Pals, a feature that runs each month in our magazine.

Building on the open dialogue fostered by Megaphone’s Speakers Bureau program, we publish a monthly “advice column” that aims to encourage respectful discussion about real life issues. We also want to increase interaction between the Megaphone team and our readers and customers.

So fire away! We have the awesome folks who are involved with Speakers Bureau, as well as some of our seasoned vendors, standing by to dole out their two cents’ worth.  (Take their advice at your own risk).

Oh, and a warning: Agree or disagree, rant or rave, but please be concise and respectful. No profanity. And while we are supportive of an honest exchange of ideas, racist, sexist, homophobic or other denigrating comments will not be printed.


Dear Pen Pals,

I’ve heard about a street market on East Hastings Street. Can you tell me about it? Who sells there and what do they sell? Are stolen goods an issue?

We asked Yvonne Mark, a Megaphone vendor and member of the Speakers Bureau team, to answer this question. Yvonne is a longtime street market seller and customer.


The Downtown Eastside (DTES) street market has been a part of the DTES for as long as I can remember—and it is thriving.

It’s a very prevalent part of the community, as there are buyers, sellers, window shoppers and some of us that just enjoy socializing with each other. I personally encourage the marketplace as it’s a means of earning extra cash, a way to downsize, or simply shop for yourself. And the price is right. 

There’s an entire array of sellers from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds who take part in the market for reasons that are immeasurable—mostly for survival to earn extra money as the cost of living is unmanageable for most residents down here, and I’m only speaking about my neighbourhood.

For myself, I sell snacks outside the Carnegie Community Centre and I do it for the love of mingling with my neighbours and friends, as well as potential buyers. I’ve bought and sometimes sold everything, including clothing, toys, jewelry, food, sports/tote bags, linen, antiques, books, artwork, make-up, toiletries (very popular), dishes, coffee makers, microwaves and the kitchen sink (LOL)!

I’m not in dire straits financially, but what I do with the market actually saved my life. I used to be addicted to drugs and alcohol and was homeless for a time. Not anymore, but in my early sobriety I had to stay busy as my mind kept saying, “Why bother? Just give up.”

Now I’m very well known here and I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to be a vendor.

As for stolen goods, they’ve always been an issue at all types of street markets, not just in the DTES. That’s par for the course. But I’d say that most of the vendors are honest, hardworking, run-of-the-mill people who are participating in a market that has been around pretty well since the beginning of time in Vancouver in one form or another—such as bartering, trading, buying, selling, giveaways and the like. And, as in many other countries, I think it should be legal, encouraged and maintained. 

Happy trails to all.

Yvonne Mark (above) is a Vancouver Megaphone vendor and longtime street market seller and customer.

Send your questions to editor@, drop them off at the Megaphone office at 312 Main St. (at Cordova), or drop us a line on Twitter: @MegaphoneMag

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