Archive for the 'poor' Category

Tony’s story — Part #3

February 23, 2007

Milk wagon
TONY (written while he was in jail)
I don’t know how many people remember the old horse and milk wagon that used to go around the streets picking up empty bottles and replacing them with fresh bottles of milk. When I was about eight years old, the milkman would pay me 2 cents a bottle. Some customers would put their weekly milk payments on top of their empties on the porch; they were always people who lived in big houses and who had big money. My family had to live too, so a few bucks here and there plus my $1.50 per day helped us stay alive.

PS: Tony has a court date on Monday, Feb 26. It’s also his 58th birthday.

Tony’s story — Part #2

February 19, 2007

“I took everything I could get my hands on …”

TONY (written while he was in jail)
“See, when I was growing up [ages 5-7], we had what people call a soup line. Kids and parents were lined up for blocks and when I say blocks, I mean 10-12 blocks, literally. We had to have stamps for bread: 1/2 a stamp for a loaf and one stamp for so-called butter, which was really lard).

“Me and the crew would steal food from the navy to feed my family and crew. There was five kids in my crew: Pete (the milk man), Dave (the meat man), Jimmy (the pick pocket), Larry (the clothing man) and me, Tony. I didn’t have a specialty; I took everything I could get my hands on. If I could sell it, I took it.”

Job troubles, bone troubles and crack troubles

December 29, 2006

“Tony, why don’t you look for a job? One guy even put a question on the blog asking why you don’t look for a job every day. Lots of people genuinely don’t understand why you don’t. I even bet quite a few people who are sympathetic to the homeless issue have problems with the job thing.”

“OK, well, first of all, you don’t get paid for looking for a job because you’re not at your panhandling station. So how am I supposed to get food when I’m looking for a job?

“And how are folks supposed to call me when I don’t even have a phone? Well, if anyone ever finds out that I went and got a cell phone, I bet most of ’em wouldn’t give me money again. A homeless guy with his own cell phone?! You got to be kidding me. Even if someone gave it to me I’m dead in the water.

“Then there’s that I don’t even have an address. You can’t even a shower except in a shelter or sometimes when you rent a room.

“Look at the bags under my eyes. How’s someone going to hire you if you got bags under your eyes since you don’t get enough sleep?

“I’ve got a bad back, my knees are killing me and there’s my collar bone. So I can’t do stuff with lots of walking or lifting things like I used to. I used to deliver those big phone books. You should try carrying eight phone books on your shoulder going straight uphill.

“Plus my feet are real bad. I’ve got a [deep skin] crack in both of ’em now.

“Anyway, just have those folks walk in my shoes for one day. Then you’ll understand what it’s all about.”

Under the sheltering sky

December 4, 2006

“When it gets cold like last night [-5 C], do you go to a sleeping shelter if you can’t get a bed?”

“Never. Don’t use them. They’re too dangerous.

“People think shelters are safe places because it’s the city that runs them. But they’re not. When the politicians do their visits to check how the shelters are, everyone on the inside knows they’re coming. They clean the place up nice and everyone is on their good behaviour. I’ll sleep outside if I can’t get a good bed.”

Letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail

November 3, 2006

My letter to the editor published today in the Globe and Mail was triggered by the eye-popping irrationality of yesterday’s Facts & Arguments essay. In summary, the offending essay observes that homeless people are the unhappy product of their own “choices”, and that a proportion of homeless people sometimes spend their hard-begged money to buy themselves fancy lattes. The author declares: “Whether right or wrong, misinformed or wishful, this is the inescapable conclusion that keeps me, and many others as well, walking right past those cardboard “Spare Change? Need Food” signs without a second thought.”

Is moral blindness a choice?

Introducing Tony

October 23, 2006

Welcome to Tony’s new blog. Tony is homeless.

This blog is — as much as possible — Tony’s, as transcribed by me (Philip). Tony lives in Toronto. Today and in the future, I will annotate (but not change) his words and add my voice when context (narrow or broad) seems to be needed.

I’ve known Tony for about 5 years. I estimate that he’s about 55 yrs old. Tony spends most days coaxing a dime or a quarter or a dollar or a fiver from folks walking by, familiar and not.

From what I can tell, Tony finances his life one meal at a time, plus the cost of a bed for the evening when he can collect enough money. Most mornings, I find him perched on a stack of milk crates, near my favourite coffee shop. Tony’s cap acts as a nest for loose change, and his small cardboard signs attempt to catch your eye and your heart. I see him most days at around 8am when he’s generally “working on” breakfast.

I hadn’t seen Tony for several days. I discover that he was in jail last week. After finding him this morning, I proposed to Tony that we start a blog with him as the prime author. Tony has full editorial control and he can review any posting beforehand if he wishes. Even though Tony had never “set eyes” on the Internet, he proposed that we should “just go ahead”.

Thus, a Homeless Man Speaks.


“I got locked up last Monday [Oct 16] because I punched the boyfriend of a woman in July [2006] butI forgot my court date [earlier in October] when I had to defend what I did protecting that woman.

“Monday afternoon I was sitting here as usual [near the coffee shop], minding my business and there were a bunch of cops cars driving down the street. It was a like a motorcade. The cops went to an apartment up the street and carried out a baby. The mother [not the woman that Tony had protected in July] had been beaten up by her boyfriend and the cops came and took away their baby. Then one of the cops walked down the street towards me and asked if I was “Tony”. He was just double-checking because he already kind of knew me. The cop gave me a bench warrant since I had forgot my court date and told me to come with him to the police station. I asked the cop if I could lock up my bike first and that was no problem.

“They all know me in the police station and the jail, so they treated me fine and I got food and everything. But I didn’t make bail on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday. I got out on Friday [Oct 20]. I still got my orange jumpsuit [Tony pulled back his coat to display his eye-catchingly orange jumpsuit underneath]. I can’t pick up my clothes from the jail until tomorrow. But they’re dirty so I’ve got to wash them anyway. I’ve been sleeping behind bush near [an intersection in the neighbourhood]. I’ve got plastic sheets as a sort of a roof but it’s got a few holes. There’s mud and you can’t keep clean.”


PS: Your comments will get to Tony, so feel free to ask questions, etc.

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