Like most major cities, you can’t get far in downtown Vancouver without running into or stepping over a panhandler of some kind. Over time, I’ve started a PCS for them. Panhandler classification system. A generic grouping of sorts. It’s by no means accurate, complete nor scientific. Based only on my experiences.
- Zombie shuffler – This is your generic, malnourished panhandler who wears whatever rags they put on years ago, has no energy and listlessly shuffles from place to place asking for money.
- Angry addict – An obvious coke/heroin/substance d addict who has that look, no teeth etc, and needs money to support their habit. They often curse you under their breath or out loud if you don’t give them something. Don’t make eye contact.
- The can man – Providing a minor service by ensuring that every bottle and can in existence is returned to the recycling depot for the nickle that you spent. They smell REALLY bad (fermenting beverages) and rattle a lot.
- Lazy-ass pot-head – You know the ones. Witty signs like “Need money for food pot” or “Support my study of the effects of pot on the homeless.” They’re usually young 20-somethings who look like they stepped out of Mad Max or a Ramones concert. Leather, camo, studded leather etc. Often with dogs that give you that “Rescue me” look.
- Working homeless – Credit to these guys. These are the artists, performers and the ones who joined the downtown garbage pickup crew. You probably wouldn’t take them home to dinner, but at least they’re trying to do something.
- Unconscious – Sleeping in doorways or across sidewalks. Usually with their little cardboard sign and collection bucket or hat. All of their worldly possessions are right around them, often under their head, or in the stolen grocery cart at their feet.
Now before you get all high and mighty about my judgemental and non-PC attitude here, let me say this. Screw you.
I’ve lived in Vancouver for 8 1/2 years now. During that time, I’ve come to recognize certain panhandlers and give them names. Turns out, we all know them. There’s “The quarter lady” for example who only wants a quarter. Give her nickles or dimes and she’s not interested. There’s “Stinky deaf Skytrain guy” who rides the Skytrain around Main Street, only during the summer months, and trolls the food court giving out sign language cards to about 10 people, then cycling back through to collect money if you want to keep it. There’s a new woman near work. She’s about the worst one so far. She’s abusive and doesn’t just want “Spare change” but actually DEMANDS a toonie!
I’m not mean and I feel bad that these people are in the place they are. I just get tired of being harassed every 5 steps, and not being able to sit on a patio and enjoy the sunshine without having to tip the homeless.
That’s my opinion. Yours may vary.