Vancouver’s first Aboriginal Art Hotel and how you can make sure your traveler’s dollar goes to a worthy cause!
Vancouver – A bustling city nestled between beautiful snow capped peaks and stunning coastal beaches! Exquisite centrally located parks, a thriving arts, theatre and music scene, a multitude of micro breweries, countless superb cafes and restaurants for every taste, farmers markets, renowned universities and art schools…and our new home for a while! What more could anyone actually ask for? We’ve been in Vancouver just over a week and are so excited to explore everything it has to offer; so far we couldn’t be more impressed, this city is well and truly living up to its reputation!
Currently we’re staying at Skwachays Lodge in Gastown and have been getting to know this trendy, indie neighbourhood, just a convenient (but chilly) ten minute walk away from Downtown Vancouver…
Gastown is a national historic area located in Central Vancouver. Wandering through the streets of Gastown, it’s impossible not to notice how each doorway seems to mark the entrance to a minimalist boutique fashion shop, retro barbershop, modish café, designer home interiors store, or eccentric pub. In fact, unsurprisingly, in 2012 Gastown was named the fourth most stylish neighbourhood in the world.
The almost too trendy streets of Gastown are a stark and confronting contrast to the harsh reality of it’s less than fortunate neighbour. The district runs adjacent to the Downtown East side, an area that is notorious for open drug use, homelessness and poverty.
As of July 2015, there were 1,746 homeless people in the city of Vancouver (1). The majority of Vancouver’s homeless deal with at least one related health condition such as mental illness, physical disability or drug addiction. Indigenous people are well and truly over-represented within this number, making up approximately 30% of the homeless population, while only comprising about 2% of the total population of Greater Vancouver.
Vancouver’s homelessness figures are attributed to a combination of high and rising housing costs, and insufficient wages to afford these. It’s no secret that higher levels of education generally lead to higher wages, and unfortunately education levels are also lower within the Aboriginal population, with almost 30% of Aboriginal people in Canada not having completed a high school certificate (2). Whilst these figures are improving, they aren’t improving fast enough, and a quick look into the homeless slums of the Downtown East side is proof of that.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a problem specific to Vancouver, or even to Canada. All over the world, indigenous people have suffered grave mistreatment with the arrivals of Western civilisations to their native lands. Coming face-to-face with this issue on the streets of Vancouver, it really does make you wonder: why is this STILL such a problem, and why aren’t more people doing something about it? It’s true that as individuals it’s not always possible for us to change the world, but there’s another side to that old coin, we are all drops in the global ocean and we can each try to do our part.
At Skwachays Lodge (appropriately located on the fringes of both these unique and vastly different suburbs) they’re well and truly doing their part. They’re taking a small portion of the mistreatment and inequality in our society and they’re giving back to the people who deserve it the most. Skwachays Lodge is also giving travelers an opportunity to do the same…
Skwachays Lodge is Vancouver’s first Aboriginal Arts hotel; it is owned and operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society and provides 24 shelter rate apartments for Aboriginal people at risk of homelessness. The hotel rooms at the lodge are the product of the combined creative energies of six of Vancouver’s top hotel designers and six Aboriginal artists who have come together to help make something special.
On the upper floors are 18 boutique hotel units, each of which is its own unique art installation. The profits gained from socially responsible travelers staying in the hotel, fund the aforementioned shelter rate apartments, and also help house Aboriginal patients traveling to Vancouver from rural and remote locations to receive medical treatment. There is a beautiful fair trade Aboriginal art gallery on the ground floor, which gives artists a great opportunity to showcase and sell their work, and also helps to fund this wonderful project. Many of the featured artists are housed in the lodge, and there is a workshop for them to create carvings and paintings.
As a guest of Skwachays, you’re not only funding an extremely worthy cause, but you can enjoy all of the comforts of a luxury boutique hotel. The rooms boast impressive facilities such as a large flat screen TV with cable, fast wifi, Bluetooth audio docking station, fridge, microwave and coffee maker, as well as beds donated by Hypnos- the company who provide the world’s most comfortable beds for the British royal family (and believe me, they are comfy)!
The hotel also has a beautiful welcome room for breakfast and meetings, a sweat lodge and smudge room for Aboriginal purification ceremonies, and a boardroom. You can see a full gallery and read more about the hotel’s various rooms and the specific features of each suite at skwachays.com.
And hey, if all of that’s not enough, you can just experience a beautifully unique, personalised hotel with a fantastic central location for your stay in Vancouver.
Check out our Instagram for more great photos of Vancouver and all the places we’ve visited!
(1) Thomson, M., 2015, ‘Vancouver Homeless Count 2015’ , [Online] Available: http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/vancouver-homeless-count-2015.pdf [Accessed 25 October 2016]
(2) Statistics Canada, 2015, ‘The Education Attainment of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada’, [Online] Available: https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/as-sa/99-012-x/99-012-x2011003_3-eng.cfm [Accessed 25 October 2016]