The majority of Haligonians have been nothing but wonderful to me. Putting yourself in a position where you panhandle for money is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
I had to reign in all my pride, and I knew there would be people who would make comments that would be hard to hear.
So I thought I would share with you some I’ve personally been subjected to.
“Why don’t you’ve get a job?” That’s an easy one to answer. I can’t legally work without my work permit being issued which I’m still waiting for. The moment I am able to apply for a job I will be. I’ll be applying for any job out there to get myself off the street panhandling.
“This used to be a nice street until the beggars arrived” I’m sorry if my presence spoils your enjoyment of Spring Garden Road, but seeing that I don’t call out “spare change please” and the most I tend to do is smile and say hello to passers by, I can’t see how my presence on Spring Garden makes it a worse experience. Maybe these people feel that panhandlers are just bums who should all just disappear from view, and then these people wouldn’t have to think of poverty and homelessness in Halifax?
“You’re a junkie”. I can assure you I’m not a junkie. I don’t take crack. I don’t bang needles. I’m not even a drinker. I know plenty of homeless people who use substances to deal with the issues in their lives, and I honestly feel for the people who are dealing with substance abuse issues, but unless people are going to judge me for my cheese or coffee addiction then I can honestly say I’m no junkie.
“Homeless people are a drain on society!” I don’t qualify for social assistance. I don’t get help to get housing. My goal is to get my work permit and use my post graduate qualification to help members of society who want to make their lives better. I can’t pay much forward at the moment but at the end of the day if I have spare food that someone has donated, or a few extra coins in my cup I’ll pass them on to other panners that I know. I believe in passing it forward and always try to help someone in any way I can.
“You’re just lazy!” Ok, this goes back to the job thing, unless I get a work permit I can’t work. I can’t get assistance. I need to make money somehow, and I can assure you that standing on your feet from 10am to 6pm every day is exhausting both physically and mentally. My feet, calves, knees and back hurt every day. My emotional health takes a hit, especially if I’ve stood for up to 10 hours a day (as I do sometimes) and I’ve managed to get less than $5 all day.
The things that keep me going though are the positive, empathetic comments that I receive. People talk to me, about the circumstances of my homelessness, they can see in my eyes in not drunk or on crack. They are amazed that someone who has such a good education is standing on the streets panning.
My whole goal of this blog is to try and change the attitudes of some of the people who walk past me, and either look at me as if I’m something they wiped off their shoe, or the people who make ignorant and uninformed comments based on their lack of understanding. I’m just a “normal” (whatever that means) person whose circumstances have brought them to this place in their lives. My life changed literally overnight, as anyone’s can.
I’d hope that the people who make negative judgements would come and spend a couple of minutes talking to me. Maybe after talking to me they could think properly about homelessness and panhandling. I never imagined I’d be homeless. I don’t think a lot of people do, until it touches their lives.
So, if you see me outside park lane and you want to come and talk to me, honestly and without judging me, I’m happy to do that. Having people talk to me makes my day so much brighter.
Sending you all love and light