Homeless and musical – Young troupe travel in numbers for safety

By Jerry Laird

Sept. 28, 2015

Choppa left home when he was 17 and he has been on his own ever since.

His parent’s split and home life was difficult, so he turned to alcohol to deal with the stress.

“My alcohol abuse was a problem, so I had to go.”

He’s been on the move ever since and on Sept. 28 he was in Charlottetown when he stopped to talk.

He spent the first four years living on the streets of Toronto where he panhandled and scavenged for food when necessary.

“I didn’t stay in any shelters or nothing, I lived on the street.”

Choppa and some friends put their money together and bought a van. They travelled from town to town busking, selling art and panhandling.

“When we got to a town, we split up and did our own thing for the day, then we’d meet back at the van.”

When the van broke down, Choppa made his way back to Toronto. He spent over a year on the streets in Toronto before getting back on the road.

“It just got too hard in Toronto, the police were always hassling me, so I headed east.”

Choppa waited three days at the rail yard for a freight train. His travels took him to Newfoundland and Halifax.

In Halifax, he met travellers from Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick. They were banjo, guitar and spoon players.

New Brunswick native Farron, they prefer to use single names, is one of the two guitar players in the group.

When the mill in New Brunswick Farron was working at shut down, he decided to travel. He frequented the Ark, a drop-in centre in Halifax where you can get a meal and do laundry.

“They even helped Choppa get his dog back from the pound. Somebody stole it while we were busking and took it in.”

Farron keeps a place in Halifax and sends rent money when he can, sometimes $20 at a time.

“It seems silly, but I tell the landlord, that’s a days rent.”

Amanda is a singer-songwriter from N.B. She joined the crew in Halifax. She likes to travel in a group and from Charlottetown they planned to head to Halifax.

“We will split up into pairs and hitchhike, and join up again when we get there.”

Choppa takes it day by day and will quit travelling when it makes sense to stop.

“Maybe some day I’ll meet a girl, settle down and have kids. Not right now.”