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On the streets of Halifax today...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The past few days I've had errands to do and lunch meetings to go to in downtown Halifax. The city is a thriving and sophisticated Canadian city, with vibrant arts, culture and cuisine. But one can not escape but notice the increasing number of homeless and street people. Especially on Spring Garden Road, the main shopping street. The sidewalks are full of people begging. Sometimes I feel sorry for them and buy a hot chocolate and muffin for them. Sometimes I feel annoyed by their aggressive behaviour and think that certainly they must be able to do something to help themselves. There are jobs at practically every fast food restaurant available. I know I know...save the lecture. Like I said, I think both ways on the issue.

Regardless, they are human beings and should be given respect. Today I saw a man throw a cigarette at one of the homeless. As he tossed it, another businessman walking in the opposite direction came in the line of fire and the tossed cigarette lodged in the oncoming businessman's neck. The whole thing unfolded in front of my eyes as the homeless fellow went to retrieve the cigarette from the businessman's neck (who, by the way, was searching for it's landing place, unaware of it's location). Seeing the homeless man coming after his neck, he started to step backwards pulling away from the man. I was about to stop and try and explain that the man wasn't threatening him but simply wanted to get the cigarette out from the folds of his neck. I decided to let them sort it out for themselves.

  1. Blogger Neo said:

    Neo shakes his head

    Cathy - Like my mom used to say: "Through the grace of God it wasn't you."

    Some people will never understand.

    Peace & Hugs,

    - Neo

  1. Blogger missbhavens said:

    Ooof. People are amazing, aren't they? I'm not sure why I always think that New York has en exclusive on homeless people. It's just so prevalent here, and the city is so expensive to live in...

    A few years ago on the subway--where there is always someone with a "how I got homeless" horror story entering the car--the car I was in actually ended up with two different panhadlers, coming in from opposite ends of the car. One wonders why this doesn't happen all the time, but it doesn't. They didn't know the other was there while they offered their stories (it was crowded). One was an older woman, and one was a 40-ish man with a toddler. As they made their way across the car collecting spare change and lunch leftovers, you could sense the passengers who realised what was going on wondering what would happen when the two collided in the middle.

    What happened was this: the older woman gave the man and his child all her proceeds from the day without a word and walked on. The man stood there shocked and wept, as did many of the passengers.

    It was an astonishing thing to witness.

  1. Anonymous Anonymous said:

    I often think that God puts us in situation as a test to see what we will do. How we will react, what we choose to do at that moment is important. It might not even be the same respondse he is looking for, but what we get out of it. It is a learning experiance.

    Who was being tested here today and who passed?

  1. Blogger Skye said:

    Cathy, here in San Francisco, as in all big cities, I've pretty much seen it all, (almost), there are times that I can help and then there are times I get so upset with the agencies that have just allowed "people" to fall through the cracks. There are also those that that is how they prefer it. It is sad no matter how you look at it.

  1. Blogger Stephanie said:

    Cathy - I'm having a big "people are just stupid" day here, so all I can say is yes...I can imagine that scene all to well. Hope you're well :)

  1. Blogger Maddy said:

    I always think - no - one
    wants to ask for anything deep
    down - it's hard - so need
    must rise over shame - in order
    to ask with the exception of an
    addiction which is another sadness
    in and of itself...I always buy
    something to eat and coffee as well.
    You are a sweetie.


  1. Blogger Mise en Place said:

    I too think both ways...it's a very hard thing. Regardless, I always feel for those people and always give them something.

    It's a sad thing.

  1. Blogger Michelle said:

    It's a double edged sword :(

    It's nice to provide comfort to those who need it more.....by buying someone a hot drink on freezing day is a wonderful gesture :)

  1. Anonymous Anonymous said:

    Your heart sounds like it is totally in the right place but unfortunately we have to walk away sometimes cause it can get us in trouble.

    Take care,

  1. Blogger x said:

    there are homeless people in Athens too. A couple of months ago i had a thought. Because we are used to seeing them in certain places, like the central square or central streets, we have got used to their presence and their plight won't shock us anymore. But if they suddenly appear somewhere else, for example near our neighbourhood, we notice them more. We might feel annoyed, or really sad but we do notice them then. And that made me think something very sad: they have become something like furniture in our lives. We only notice them when they are misplaced, like a chair that should be in another room.
    Here in Greece the homeless are not many, but there are many beggars and many of them are kids.

  1. Blogger Meow (aka Connie) said:

    It's a sad world we live in, isn't it. Take care, Meow

  1. Blogger Gurgo said:

    it is a screw without an end! If you have no job - you won't get a home and without a home you won't get a job.
    Without family or friends you are easily lost!

  1. Blogger Nancy said:

    Sounds like a smart move!

  1. Blogger Steve House said:

    it is best not to get involved but i know it can be hard to watch.

    Your Halifax sounds the complete opposite of British Halifax which is basically a wasteground of a town famous for ... er... a rubbish rugby team?

  1. Blogger Heidi said:

    It's sad to see the homeless especially in the winter months. I give what I can and or stay away when it's warranted unfortuanlty.

  1. Blogger Berlinbound said:

    You are a "feeler" Cathy ... one of those who hears the soft crys that others mistake for bad wiring ... It will always be difficult for you to walk the streets ... and that is a good thing. Some of us are here to observe ... that's our role.

  1. Blogger Corrina & Zack said:

    Once in Georgetown, my mother stopped and had a conversation with a homeless man. He asked, "Do you know what it's like to have a bullet in your brain?" My father and I kept walking but my mom stopped... the perpetual mother. She opened her wallet only inches from this man. My dad and I both watched in horror, expecting him to reach out, grab it, and run. He didn't. He waited patiently while my mom fished out some notes and handed them over. He gently took them from her and said, "You're a lovely woman." Here's to those who have a soft spirit, like my mom.

  1. Blogger Foxy said:

    wow, that's crazy...like something you would see on the streets on NYC. I remember the first time I got angry at a "homeless person" here in NYC- it was last year, one of the coldest ever and I pass this lady wearing a MINK coat, begging for money...I couldn't believe that a lady who was warmer than I was, would have the nerve....and here you really never know who really is or isn't homeless, people and their scams, they'll try anything for money- and aim to get the tourists...

  1. Blogger Cathy said:

    Your mum is a wise woman.

    What a wonderful story!

    I wish I knew the answer to that question, but I can say for certain that the cigarette tossing arrogant fellow didn't pass anything...

    Yes, you're right...sad whichever way you look at it.

    Wow, I have "people are stupid" days too, usually more often than not, unfortunately.

    And you are a sweetie, too....

    If I gave something to everyone on Spring Garden Road, I wouldn't get very far...unfortunately.

    I prefer to do this, otherwise I despise the idea that my money would be spent on drugs or alcohol.

    I think you're right.

    So sad to think of it in this way...unfortunately a lot of the street beggars are kids here as well. And often they are at intersections asking to clean car windows for change...

    It could be a whole lot worse though, that's for certain..

    Of course, youa re right....and this is in fact the case for most...

    I actually wasn't fearful, I just had that moment of pause where I didn't think it was my place to intervene...I actually wish that I had in hindsight...

    I don't know anything about the other Halifax, but am intrigued...I also know nothing about rugby (which doesn't intrigue me at all). My Halifax was named after Lord Halifax of your side of the pond....

    I know the feeling...

    Thank you. we are sympatico...

    Cheers to mum's like yours!

    I know it's a lot worse in NYC and in developing countries there is not even a hint of comparison, but it really is a statement about our society as a whole.

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