When we moved to Montreal, it was the first time I had actually lived right in “the big city”. Originally I’m from a small town just outside of Toronto, and later in a commuter town just on the outskirts of the the M25 in London England after I got married.
Needless to say part of me is thankful that I don’t have to have day to day dealings with the squeegee kids and homeless anymore here in Quebec since moving “off the island” unfortuntatly it leaves the other part of me being a tad blase about it, I blame that on having always lived so close to the big city. In the past (specifically on this blog) I’ve admited to pretty much being a snot-nosed stuck up holy-ier than thou heartless bitch. And heck I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit it again.
The downtown core of Montreal, espeically near the latin quarter (Think St Catherine and St Laurent) There are a ton of squeegee kids. In your face and abrassive squeegee kids. I’ve found that the random times I need to go right down town to pick up or drop off Colin as soon as I get off the highway I lock my doors, and make sure my windows are rolled up. Why? Not so much out of fear, more because I’d prefer not to have any confrontation.
I believe there is a big difference between homeless people and squeegee kids. The main difference, is obviously where they dwell. So many of these squeegee kids are young people looking to make some cash, most have a place with mommy and daddy to go home to. I’m not saying this as gospel, I’m saying this out of experience.
Recently, on one of my last jaunts to the city to get my husband I got stopped at the corner of Sherbrooke and St Laurent – right by the Just for Laughs theatre. There to my ammusement was a very clean shaven, newly hair dyed squeegee kid with a brand new squeegee, expensive trainers and designer jeans. He got to the window of my car and I flagged him away. He wiped the car windshield anyways and stood waiting to be paid for an job I didn’t want him to do. I watched him wipe his wet hands on his designer jeans. I sighed, thinking about my sister who had saved to buy the same pair of jeans a few months eariler for a friend who was a boy or a boyfriend of hers. I remembered my sister, who is a tad bit more into the label scene of fashion, and I as we stood motionless, heads pressed back stared up at the denim wall for a short eternity. humming and hawwing, and then finally a decision was made and a pair of jeans was purchased. At the till the friendly wrurrring of the register alerted my sister to her total, $257.45. Why does this squeegee kid need the coffee and tea soaked rusted pennies inside the drink holders of my car, heck I can’t afford designer jeans, I should have asked him to spot me a tenner.
Then there are the homeless, in major cities like Montreal – and especially in Canadian cities, there isn’t much reason for one to be actually on the street. Without a home of your own, sure. But on the streets, no.I watched a show on the news last year talking about how only half of the beds in shelters are used.I find it difficult to be sensitive to street people for that reason. Get yourselves off the street, get a good meal, get some training, get a job. . . . There is no overnight solution for homlessness – and they’ll have to work on it, but the services are there, they just aren’t making use of them.
I also think there are two tiers of homeless people, people down on their luck who have the motivation to make change. And then secondly, the people who abuse whats given to them, and berrate those who have better than them.
An example of the later is the one-armed, one-legged homesless man in Montreal. Montrealers know the guy by face. He is one of the most imfamous homesless people in Montreal, next to the Spoonman in front of Oglives. During the evenings he stands outside the exit doors of the Paramount movie theatre downtown near Peel metro. He stands close enough to the doors to be hit or nudged, so you have to as a polite human say ‘excuse me’ or ‘pardon me’ or sorry if you hit him. He has perfected his stance and stare and gives you a burning look if you don’t drop toonies and loonies into his worn hat. I suspect in a night he gets $100 or more. Maybe I should ask him for a tenner!
A little over a year ago, in one of my quests to ‘pay it forward’ I decided to give the homeless young people at the park at the corner of St Catherine and Berri, near Place Dupuis, a couple coupons for free bags of dog food for their dogs. (All of them had at least one dog!). The head of this group looked at the coupon for one of those grocery store dog foods and said to me in a crossed voice “We don’t feed that crap to our dogs”. This bothered me for a slew of reasons 1) Beggers can’t be choosers, if they were homeless, they really did need that food 2) If they were homeless, they would have though about the fact they could have returned the food for cash! 3) What the heck were they feeding these dog in the first place if the “best” grocery store food was considered crap? Perhaps they to have a secret stash of cash, maybe I should have asked them for a tenner.
Now all that being said, you can obviously see that I don’t give money to homeless kids with dogs, homesless people in general, and most definalty not to the squeegee kids. I do however quiet often throw a few tuppances into the boxes of street performers and buskers. Why? Because they have a skill and are doing something for the money, and most do it out of love of their hobby and not of of spite or just for the heck of it. . . I might even be inclined to give them a tenner!