Sounds like a tourist got stuck staying near the downtown eastside.. From todays Star Phoenix:
Somewhat less beautiful is Vancouver. We stayed this time on the periphery of the city’s notorious Downtown Eastside, where the beggars and crackheads roam. Crack addicts are easy to distinguish from the other vagabonds. They’re constantly scanning the sidewalk around their feet, as if looking for cigarette butts. That’s what I thought at first they were doing. But no. What they’re really looking for is crumbs of crack that some careless addict might have dropped in the night. Any little bit of white detritus, they pick up, carefully examine and then discard. This is how they spend their days. I was reminded of the zombies in George Romero’s Living Dead films.
The entire review isn’t that bad – Despite its rotten core Vancouver is ranked by that visitor as among the greatest cities, and they really enjoyed Quadra Island.