Advocacy, education and outreach in support of Vancouver's public spaces

Sunbathing with Physical Distancing – Sutcliffe Park. Photo: Lex Dominiak

COVID-19 and Public Life

Public life and public spaces in Vancouver have seen many changes and reinterpretations as a consequence of COVID-19. Being mindful of public health guidance urging people not to gather, and to stay home except for essential trips and exercise, we want to hear your stories about the public spaces and activities that are lifting your spirits and keeping you healthy during the pandemic. Or, are there public spaces that you miss in these trying times? With nearly every aspect of our lives being affected by COVID-19, people are thinking about their lives from new perspectives. We’d like to encourage you to think about how public spaces have contributed to your well-being.

David Lam in the age of physical distancing. Photo: Sam Khany

We want to hear from you!

The PS I Love You (Well-being Edition) is intended to provide a forum for sharing stories of the places that are helping you get through the pandemic; places that have healed or excited your body, mind or heart. It’s also a place for stories about how public spaces could help support your well-being. Are there ways in which the experience of COVID-19 has changed your view of public space in general? Your stories could include such ideas as:

  • Which activities or outdoor public spaces in Vancouver give you a sense of well-being? How has this changed with COVID-19?
  • Which activities or outdoor public spaces are you missing and why are those important to your health/well-being?
  • What do your experiences tell us about public space equity? What are the critical lessons which we can, collectively, learn from this experience?
  • How can the City of Vancouver and its public spaces adapt to better serve the community in the future?

Share your stories and photos through twitter or instagram or send us an email. Be sure to use the #PSILoveYou hashtag. You can also send contributions, long or short, to We’ll repost stories frequently and share them with our followers. Follow along via Twitter – @vpsn – and Instagram – @vancouverpublicspace.

Background: Personal, relational and collective well-being in public space

Hastings Street. Photo: Selina Bull

When we think about well-being in public spaces, it encompasses personal, relational and collective aspects of physical, mental and spiritual health. Equity is a critical part of well-being and this crisis is amplified for people experiencing homelessness, domestic abuse, and other social, health or economic vulnerabilities.

While many people seek to meet their well-being needs in public spaces through a number of means/activities (e.g., meeting up with friends, people-watching, exercise, seeking quiet, space, or connection to nature), we recognize that people living in Vancouver have a variety of circumstances. People’s need for, access to, and use of public space vary considerably – and COVID-19 is highlighting some of these inequalities in stark fashion.

Public space needs and COVID-19

Public life in the city has changed radically in the space of just one month. Among other things, COVID-19 is affecting people’s connection with public places, whether local parks, streets, or civic buildings like libraries and community centres. Many of these spaces have been shuttered to prevent the spread of the disease, while the use of others – particularly where public gathering is an outcome – comes with important warnings about public health.

The ability to manage COVID-related risk (or not) is a matter of social equity (or inequity). It is closely related to a set of factors commonly referred to as the social determinants of health. These implications are also intersectional in nature, as people have multiple and overlapping circumstances, for example: the comfort and ease with which people can shelter in place comfortably, get recreational, hygiene or health-needs met, or maintain a 2m physical distancing boundary is impacted by several core considerations, including:

  • Where you live (including neighbourhood and type of housing – or whether you have housing at all) (See this map from New York for example) ;
  • Economic circumstances – including availability or absence of savings or financial safety net, whether or not you have a job and/or can work from home; etc.
  • The provision of public space in your community, including the width of sidewalks, the variety and quality of routes and pathways, and the amount of open space available; the role of community centres, neighbourhood houses and libraries (noting in particular the implications of regular facilities and programming being shut down during COVID-19).
  • Aspects of identity, including gender, culture, and ability

This is an important time to consider how these fundamentals impact the well-being needs that you seek in public spaces – and how they have changed your use of public space in this time of crisis.

Share your stories

  • Twitter & Instagram: short posts and photos – use the hashtag #PSILOVEYOU
  • Longer contributions: please send them to

We’ll repost stories frequently and share them with our followers. Roll-ups will also be posted to this website.

Follow along:

  • Twitter – @vpsn
  • Instagram @vancouverpublicspace
  • #PSILoveYou