The City of Charlottetown is reviewing its bylaws on panhandling. Some councillors said at a recent council meeting they’ve been hearing some complaints about an increase in panhandling. Surveyor reporter Emily Walsh spoke to three panhandlers in downtown Charlottetown.
Jim sits on the steps of a local shop every day in downtown Charlottetown waiting for just a few kind Islanders to drop some spare change into his hat. With no home or family to help he still manages to smile. We are taught to not pay attention to these people or give them respect, but there are always two sides to a story. Here is Jim’s:
“I worked for 21 years as a security officer in a bottle plant every day in British Columbia. It was my life, how I made a living, supported myself. I loved it out there, so many nice views and new things to see. My life was great out there, I had friends and built a home for myself until one day the bottle company I worked for went tits up and I lost my job. I looked for a new job, but couldn’t find one due to the lack jobs. With no job and no income, I lost my home and had nowhere to go, which lead me to want to get out of British Columbia. I had no other choice to hitchhike my way to a new city.”
“I came to P.E.I. because one day I was in a public library
looking at places I could go and thought a small town would be nice. Ha ha, I was wrong. There are no jobs here. I have looked but no luck and the weather here is freezing. It would be a lot nicer if it were warmer. But I have to say my favourite thing about here is the people by far, from the other cities I have lived in, which is nice for a change.
“I plan to leave P.E.I. tomorrow and go to Nova Scotia where my family is and where I know better. I don’t know how I’m getting there yet, but I will. What I’m I going to do when I get there? Look for a job. Nova Scotia has more factories and more jobs out there than this little place does.
“Life could be worse for me right now, I could be dying. The trick to life is to keep smiling. Hell, I smile every day and look at me, don’t have much, so everyone else should smile just as much as me, if not more.”
With his yellow hat and loud but interesting voice, Harold isn’t hard to miss on the streets in downtown Charlottetown. Here is his story:
“Computers, man oh man, am I ever smart when it comes to those things. I could sit at a computer, fix it and make it work like brand new. I worked for 18 years as an IT person for companies. It was my life, what I was good at, comfortable with and knew like the back of my hand. I worked in Ottawa for years with a company, had everything I needed. Then one day they fired me and everyone else in my department. I could have kept a job, as a decoder, but nah, I didn’t like that stuff, didn’t interest me at all. Turning down the job wasn’t the smart thing, uh uh, cause now I’m here with nothing.
“P.E.I. Why did I choose it? The beaches ha ha. I like to swim and I’ve never lived in a place surrounded by them. The other reason is I have relatives here, well, at least that’s what the Internet said when I researched my family history. But I don’t know if I’m going to stay here that much longer. I want to get back to Yarmouth to see my close family, to get back in touch and hopefully find a job or something out there.
“It’s hard to live out here, it’s not fun. Advice to anyone – take any job you can get to survive. It’s a hard life and not having a job or someone or somewhere to go home to makes it a lot worse.
“What’s one thing I hope to do? Get back on my feet and get a job to help myself and start living well, basically the opposite of everything you see me doing now.
“The trick to surviving each day? Ha ha, hope someone sees you and helps you, not just with money, with anything they could give, cause I got nothing and something’s better the nothing.”
Sitting on the cold concrete ground is a young, shy and nervous girl waiting for someone to give spare change in hopes she will be able to get off the streets and on to a better life for herself while she is still young. Brittany hopes to achieve more than what she has now.
“I dropped out of high school in Grade 10 and never went back or got my GED. I just didn’t like school and wasn’t good at it, so I left one day and never went back. My family is here, but I don’t talk to them much. We don’t have a great relationship.”
“I hope to get a job soon. I have been handing out resumes and applying for jobs, to get something anything to give me money to be able to do things with my life. But I haven’t got anything yet, so this is what I am stuck with for now till something comes along, which I hope is very soon, a hah.”
“I want to go back and get my GED to be able to do something. I don’t know when I will get it or try to again, maybe after I get a job and have money, but right now that’s not going to happen.”
“I don’t plan on moving or anything. My family is here, so there is no point in moving, and I’m also shy and don’t like to talk much, like right now, ha ha.”