News and Opinions from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside
Monday, July 27, 2009
Too Pretty to be Poor
Garrett used to be homeless, going through McDonald's garbage cans for food. But he never had the ragged, dirty, down and out look.
It was during Garrett's homeless period that he discovered that you could drop into the St. Vincent de Paul store on Main St. on a Monday and they would give you one of the bags of canned food that they kept in the back. They had some sort of food bank operation going.
Earlier this month, I ran into Garrett who now at 44 yrs. old has a place to live; he gets free rent in exchange for a bit of maintenance work. And he gets casual paid work as a self-trained mechanic. But money is tight so he dropped by St. Vincent de Paul for a bag of food. They turned him away. There would be no canned food for him; they would give him only a bag of scones. "If I was unshaven, and smelly, and if my clothes were rumpled, they would have given me a bag [of canned food]," he blurted out. That was the second week in a row that he'd been turned away. Two women working there have separately turned him away. "They must think I'm a scammer," he says.
Garrett said that the two women working there are immigrants. They probably got help when they arrived, he says. And now they're in the business of cherry-picking who gets help. And their method amounts to eye-balling.
Just after getting turned away from the food bank, Garrett went to the IGA on Main St., bought a can of tuna and a loaf of bread, and sat inside McDonald's making himself a couple of straight tuna sandwiches, no mayonaise. He had a bit of money in his pocket, but he said that bag of food would have fed him for about three days.
I ran into Garrett again today. He said he's trying to sell his car which he doesn't drive, but he's not optimistic about finding a buyer in this recession. I asked him if he has been turned away from St. Vincent de Paul since I last talked to him. He shook his head. "I never went back."