As soon as I stepped off the 16 at Carrall Street and W Hastings, a homeless guy came up to me and asked me to buy him "cereal". I heard "cigarettes" so I lied: "Sorry, I'm not legal yet" but then he repeated a couple times loudly, "no, cereal, cereal, cereal."
I looked at him, then at the convenience store, and I was like "okay".
I ended up buying him a jug of milk and a box of Lucky Charms, but as I was paying, he said "You know if I get 10 more dollars, I can get a room for the night" and he pointed at the ATM behind me; "Look at my shoes, they're no good" he complained, as if this was more evidence that I should give him 10 dollars, and sure enough there were holes at the bottom. The guy at the cashier did not look impressed. He said, with a stereotypical Southeast Asian accent, "She's already buying this for you okay."
I nodded to his words, thinking to myself, "Oh, my God."
As I punched in my PIN, I told the homeless guy, "I'm really sorry," and I tried to explain my thoughts but all I could say was "You know, I can't relate to you, I've never been in your situation, I'm buying you the cereal and milk but I can't give you any more money, if you stand outside this store for a bit maybe someone else will give you money, there are some kind people out here, I hope you get a room for the night."
He looked desperate and angry and frustrated and grimy. I picked up my things and left to go find Stephanie.
Later on, after lunch at Steamworks, Stephanie and I walked down the street to Secret Location (we didn't know the book signing was rescheduled 'til we got there) and of course a homeless lady sidled up to me and asked me "Miss, miss, can you do me a favour?"
I said "yes" but then a police car slowed beside us on the street. The lady whispered, "Let's keep walking, I don't want the police here, yeah?" She followed Steph and me down the street a bit and then asked me for some money to buy coffee.
I said, "There's a Starbucks right there, I can buy you some coffee."
She looked like she wasn't having it, and replied, "No, I want some money for Tim Horton's coffee. Starbucks coffee makes me sick, literally. I threw up once when I had Starbucks coffee. Can I have a toonie?"
I was like "okay, alright" and reached into my bag and rummaged through my change purse for a toonie.
As soon as I gave it to her she said "Can I have another loonie? I can get a room at the motel if I have enough money."
I was getting a little discouraged. I shook my head and told her "I can give you a slice of pizza." I was holding a box of leftover pizza from lunch. She shook her head at me and kept asking for the money. I opened the box to show her the pizza and all she did was look at me then at the box, shaking her head.
I looked at her hands. There were blood and cuts on her fingers. I handed her a slice of pizza and I told her "I hope you get enough money for the motel room. I hope you're not using this money for anything else."
Stephanie looked like she was ready to ditch me so I picked up my pace. We talked about how the police car followed us throughout this ordeal, and she said "You're too nice."
I was like "I want to help them, I really do, but I'm not made of money, I'm also dubious sometimes; like, how do I know they're going to use that money to buy food and not drugs or alcohol or smokes?"
|Stephanie and her burger at Steamworks|
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Anyway, long story aside, I love Gastown and downtown Vancouver. I hate the fact that homelessness is such a big problem there. I also hate not being able to do much about it, and I hate that I feel bad when I don't give money, and then I feel bad when I do.
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