Cereal and Milk

Bussed to Gastown on Monday to attend The Sartorialist's book signing at Secret Location but found out it was postponed 'til today! Couldn't go today 'cause I gotta study (meaning "procrastinate on studying").

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

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.



  1. I know the feeling. I remember giving all the change I had to a homeless person, it wasn't much but it was something, and they looked at me and said "...that's it?" like they weren't impressed. It's difficult to pick out who is actually appreciative of the money or whether or not they are going to use it for things like food and shelter.

  2. I'm sorry to hear that you missed the book signing because of the reschedule. I know the feeling of both student life getting in the way of plans and also about the homelessness issue. I once did buy food for a homeless woman, only watch her dump it on the ground ... I also feel bad about the giving/not giving money to the homeless, so to make up for it I volunteer plenty of time working for a homelessness charity.

  3. It's sad, but I've learned to just ignore the homeless people in Vancouver, especially at night. I used to give what change I have to them when they ask but after this one time when I got cornered by a bigger homeless guy who was clearly "on" something, I've learned that it's just not safe to stop for them. Many of these people are addicted to some sort of drugs and they need help (and I don't mean from the kindness of passerby).


    btw, I love your skirt. I've been looking for something like that for ages since I saw it featured on nastygal.

  4. Oh man, this is such a great post, Sunny. I feel for you and I've been in your exact situation before. There had been many times that I wanted to do more and help them beyond just giving them money or buying them food but the truth is that my powers are so limited. I really like how you offered a different perspective on homelessness here in Vancouver. Many people feel like they've just done something saint-like by giving them money but It think in a way it just perpetuates the problems like what if they use that money to buy their next hit? You'll never know unless you also live on the streets. Anyway, I can't believe you're wearing a skirt and a sleeveless top in Decemberrrrr. You look awesome though.

  5. This is an amazing post...
    You girls look so pretty :)

    Love, Raluca


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