Thanks to Jenn Potter with Tours by Locals, Vancouverites and visitors are feeling more comfortable wandering the streets of Gastown and the Downtown Eastside — day or night.Tours by Locals organizes what it has dubbed “Socially Responsible” walks of these East Side neighbourhoods to raise awareness of the time, money and effort residents and local businesses are investing in their community by way of social enterprise. “I remember when people stopped at the East Hastings and Main Streets traffic lights and locked their car doors,” says Potter. “It wasn’t attractive, but some businesses were bringing people into the ‘hood. Hardly anyone knew they were social enterprise or non profit.” Potter says one example is Pot Luck Cafe and Catering where she was a long-time regular customer with no clue it was a social enterprise. Another example is East Van Roasters, which employs women in need. Depending on an individual’s or group’s interests, Potter can also design a custom tour. Locations included on the Socially Responsible walk include: One Yoga for the People on West Hastings Street, which started out with a donation box at the door. Programs, including Yoga for Youth at Risk and the Sarah Foundation, help build community by making yoga accessible for everyone. Bonus: The studio, with brick walls and hardwood floor, is also gorgeous. oneyogaforthepeople.ca. As part of the tour on this day, participants slid into a banquette at Save On Meats on West Hastings Street and ordered a breakfast sandwich — and a $2.25 token. Potter explains customers can give the token to someone in need who in turn can redeem it for a free meal. Owner Mark Brand says giving a token to someone is “meant to be a conversation starter and interaction with our neighbours.” Tokens are also given to women in shelters and members of the Vancouver Police Department who use them to work with the residents of the community. saveonmeats.ca. As part of the tour on this day, participants slid into a banquette at Save On Meats on West Hastings Street and ordered a breakfast sandwich — and a $2.25 token. Potter explains customers can give the token to someone in need who in turn can redeem it for a free meal. Owner Mark Brand says giving a token to someone is “meant to be a conversation starter and interaction with our neighbours.” Tokens are also given to women in shelters and members of the Vancouver Police Department who use them to work with the residents of the community. saveonmeats.ca. The Window Community Art Shop on East Hastings Street is a gift shop (check out the hand-made linen aprons) that also offers sewing lessons at no charge for those in need. thewindowartshop.com. Skwachàys Lodge on West Pender Street, a stunning boutique hotel, and its Fair Trade Gallery, are operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society, which provides apartments for First Nations people at risk of homelessness. The top three floors comprise 18 affordable and tastefully furnished hotel rooms. skwachays.com. Housed in the historic Phoenix building on West Hastings Street, all Karma Teachers instructors are volunteers. A huge blackboard lists classes — free or by donation — running from 7.30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Yoga mats are donated and the studio’s picture window overlooks a community garden where kids learn how to grow food. karmateachers.com. Potluck Cafe and Catering on West Hastings Street was one of the first social enterprises in Vancouver. “Back in 2002, I often ordered lunch because the food, price and delivery was great,” says Potter. “Later I discovered they feed street people here at the end of the day. They also supply meals to social housing upstairs.” The cafe also serves local products whenever possible. Check out its streamlined online ordering system. potluckcatering.org. Next stop on the tour was Lost + Found Café on West Hastings Street for a delicious Mumbai Mash bun with spicy potato and cilantro pesto and a coconut date smoothie. The 2,400-square foot location is a fundraising space for the Dirty Wall Project, a charity that raises about $15,000 annually to school dozens of children. They also raise funds by renting out their spacious meeting rooms, which are free for non-profits. lostandfoundcafe.com. East Van Roasters in the Rainier Hotel on Carrall Street (run by the Portland Hotel Society) is nothing short of amazing. This coffee bar employs and trains women from the community to help make and sell high-quality organic and ethically- sourced chocolate and coffee. “Usually five or six women from the Rainier Hotel are working here, for as long as they want — it’s a high success rate,” explains pastry chef Merri Schwartz, who also runs the new East Van Roasters Bakery at 319 Carall. As well, anyone can volunteer to work Winnowing Wednesdays, which includes removing the skin from two large buckets of cacao beans. Bonus: Volunteers can take the shells home and make Madagascar tea. eastvanroasters.com.