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  • Riches to Rags: How Victoria, B.C. Drove Me to Homelessness Part 2

    sylverysmoke

    “By the time you read this, I will be homeless on the cold streets of Victoria’s Downtown core.”
    -Sylvery Gray, Part One of Riches to Rags.

    Riches to Rags: How Victoria, B.C. Drove Me to Homelessness Part 2

    Disguising Myself as a Homeless Person in Downtown Victoria:

    Before I begin to tell you my plan, you’ll need to understand what drove me to panhandling in the first place. When I lived in Victoria six years ago, I worked at Le Chateau for a few months as an Assistant Manager. I would frequently have lunch with a homeless man named Ron — a very interesting man with a very sad story. Ron lived in the Interior of B.C. and worked under the table as a carpenter. Late one night, his buddies and him got off work and decided to go to a local bar for a few beers. Although he was having fun, Ron admits he wasn’t the best at handling his liquor. Two bouncers hauled him outside and he was shocked to wake up after a six week long coma from the beating the bouncers gave him that night.

    He had lost everything. He could hardly remember what the bouncers looked like, and to make his case worse the bar had closed down and the people who were employed there were nowhere to be found. Ron had no money to his name to pay for his hospital bills. He had already been evicted and his possessions had been discarded. He didn’t qualify for any government assistance, nor did he have insurance. He had no family or friends anywhere to be seen. He walked out of that hospital, sat down on the sidewalk, and began the first day of the rest of his life as a hobo. He hopped on a train to Victoria, B.C. where he now occupies the corner of Yates and Fort Street.

    Ron likes a good reefer once in a while, but he isn’t addicted to drugs. The brain damage from the beating ensured that he cannot operate any kind of industrial equipment, which means he couldn’t even continue his passion for carpentry. Not even as a hobby. Today, he’s doing much better and makes as healthy a living as a homeless person can. He would come sit with me in the mall cafeteria on my lunch breaks from Le Shit-eau. Once, I watched him count out $170 in change. He even rolled it to bring to the bank after he insisted on buying my sushi. What a guy.

    That said, you may see why panhandling would look appealing to a wise, broke gal like me.

    I’m Not Alone

    After reading several Craigslist postings from people experiencing the same problems with my previous or potential employers, I wanted to take a stand. I couldn’t just sit quiet and let these assholes get away with taking advantage of people by being misleading and exploitive. I’m choosing to panhandle to make a point.

    My goal is to expose the employers who fucked me around, to show them how their actions can affect people, and to encourage others to stand for what they believe in. I want to panhandle in front of these dishonest businesses so people don’t crack a celebration beer for a job they were told they had- like I did. I don’t want to be silent anymore. I want to cause a ruckus, to make a scene.

    I decided to go forth with my panhandling experiment to see if there’s a link between what I’m going through and what the local homeless people here in Victoria, like Ron, are going through as well.

    What I will need:

    One Nasty-Ass Outfit: And it has to be warm. The current weather here on the Island is five degrees celsius and overcast. Good thing I’ve worked in construction, because I have a men’s flannel shirt, and some nasty work boots. I’m thinking I’ll wear those with some gloves to hide my tattoos and keep my fingers warm. I’ll pull all my hair back and hide it under a TNA toque that I’ll be wearing inside out to hide the label. My old roommate, Dave the dumpster-diving-garbage-and-food-hoarder, left his trusty diving jacket behind when he moved. It smells like garbage, so I’ll be wearing that too. Finishing it all off with some stained sweatpants and logger dude socks.

    A Disguised Face: I’ve gathered 1 1/2 cups of dirt from my garden, and I’m mixing it with some water to make mud. I’m applying it to my face, gently avoiding the eyes, and making it seem like I’ve been sleeping outside. I’ll use a blow dryer over it to give it a dried up, been-there-for-a-couple-days look.

    Entertainment: As panhandling is boring-as-fuck, I’m thinking of bringing my iPod to work, but it’s my first day and I don’t want to get fired.

    Locations: First I will hit that shitty five star dining restaurant that gets all its food from Sysco and charges out the ass for it. I’ll call the next location, ‘the shitty breakfast joint’. The idea of panhandling outside there and having the managers recognize me, gives me a thrill I can’t describe. It will also be my way of being a voice for all those other people who have been dicked around by these restaurants- because honestly, I have nothing else to do. After I’m done these two spots, I’m going to go around to Victoria’s ‘Hot Hobo Spots’ and see how much I can get to put towards my bills.

     A Sign and Something for Spare Change: I found some cardboard in the garbage and I’ve created a sign that reads, “Thought I was hired, but I was just lied to. Will work for money! Anything helps :)” I deliberately didn’t use scissors as I thought it would give off the Tres Hobo Chic look, and I’ll use a mixing bowl for change. I’ll also need some spare change to throw into the bowl to get things started. Costs money to make money, right? Seventy five cents should do.

    sylvery1

    Let’s see if I can make more than minimum wage simply by sitting on the street, smelling like garbage and begging for change. If it’s successful in one hour, I will continue and who knows, maybe I’ll actually get into a full blown “bum fight” or maybe harassed by the police for panhandling in front of a five star restaurant.

    sylverymain

    Two Hours and Tons of Public Ignorance Later…

    The results were as follows: No bum fights and police didn’t care about my fake homelessness, nor did I run into any of my old or potential employers; but I did notice that the people who were willing to help me were the people who had nothing to offer. One homeless-looking man gave me two cigarettes, which I gave away to another homeless man because I don’t smoke. I ran into a friend on the street who supported me with a ten dollar bill, so that doesn’t count.

    The most interesting finding was when I sat with a guy who calls himself ‘Space’. We chatted for a while. He was offering poetry and had a talking puppet on one hand while the other one waved around a sign saying, “Blessing you”. He told me I was going about it all wrong, that if I wanted to make his average $15 a day panhandling, I should lose the “spare some change?” approach.

    ‘Space’ told me that people give to others who are thankful and happy for what they already have, even if it isn’t much. He also told me that he gave up “conventionalism” almost 15 years ago due to lack of employment opportunities in Victoria which drove him to the understanding that when you have blind faith, the Universe will take care of you. I gave him my ten bucks and said goodbye.

    sylveryblessingsyou

    At the end of my shift, I felt pretty good knowing I made almost a day’s wages for the average panhandler, leaving with $10 and two cigarettes (all of which I gave away). Something that didn’t sit well with me as I watched busy Victorians walk passed me on the street, is that in an intimate city like Victoria, I didn’t feel a sense of community. We live in a culture where people are more offended by middle fingers and obscene language than they are about poverty, lack of opportunity and the lack of resources.

    I began panhandling as an experiment, but instead, I learned to take on a new experiment, to have blind faith in the Universe.

    ‘Space’ refuses to subscribe to negative thinking. When you stop worrying, you will truly start your journey into a new life full of love and abundance. If you let go of the things you cannot change, have love for those who hurt you, and feel grateful for what you have, the Universe provides for you abundantly. A negative mind will never give you a positive life.

    I admit that I am human, and I have been harsh, rude, and judgmental in some ways. I have made mistakes, and hurt people. I’m not looking for sympathy, hell, I’m not even looking for a job anymore. What I’m looking for is the thing we have all seemed to have lost over the generations. That sense of community. That love for humanity. A lot of things are inherent in life- change, loss, poverty,- but it’s up to us to decide to concentrate our energy on future possibilities. I can honestly say after this month’s stresses, I am living an amazing life. My son came to my friend the other day and said, “I want to be just like my mom when I’m older.” When my friend asked why, my son responded, “because she isn’t afraid of anything or anyone. And I like that.”

    We’ve all heard the phrase, “curiosity killed the Cat”, but that that’s not the whole phrase. Society only used that part of the phrase because it likes to run us on fear. Fear of not being liked, fear of being poor, fear of not having love and acceptance. Fear of not getting that job. But the whole phrase goes like this, “Curiosity killed the cat, and satisfaction brought him back.” So I am going to leave you to ponder on that. Go out there and be curious and speak your mind. Don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of you being satisfied. Be honest with yourself and others, even if it’s scary or embarrassing. I promise you, you will be rewarded with the gift of life.

    Feel free to Email me your results. Or, give me something to do by checking out my Linkedin Profile as I’m self employed and always looking for new projects.

    Words by | Sylvery Gray

    More Articles by Sylvery Gray:

    Riches to Rags: How Victoria, B.C. Drove Me to Homelessness Part 1
    Escorting is a Fucking Stupid Job
    Hot Women With Tattoos and How to Annoy Them
    What Your Shoes Say About You
    POF: Plenty of F*cked-Up

    This article was accomplished by the author in the author’s personal capacity. HUSH Magazine is a place of conversation and platform for independent voices. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of HUSH Magazine.

    • Nick AL

      I’ll be the first to say that I hate this God forsaken joke of a city, but you are what’s wrong with your life.

      I would fire you if I had somehow hired you in one of my depressing drunken episodes, and I wouldn’t think twice. This isn’t everyone else’s fault, it’s yours. The fact that you get your life changing or otherwise noteworthy advice from a homeless man named ‘Space’ would throw up a few red flags for me, but given your general ignorance about economics, society and general social methods and practices, I’d say you should take all you can get.

      If you spent the same amount of time experimenting on how to be an actual useful member of society I’m sure you can make more than ten dollars some body you know gave you out of pity for your sad state of affairs.

      • Cam H

        You are a bad person NICK AL. enough said.

    • bob

      Did not know where this was going based on part one. After reading part two,bravo,you made me think.community. We are losing this great gift w had.blessings toyou and all you meet.

    • Vicky

      What I have gathered from your articles is that you have a bad attitude. This is probably why you have unsuccessfully worked so many low-wage service jobs. Employers don’t want to hire someone that has worked 6 different jobs in a year. If you haven’t already, remove all irrelevant jobs and bad references from your resume.

      You say you went to design school and started your own company – if Vancouver Island is anything, it is a place that supports local business owners and niche ideas. Everyone knows this.

      Everyone also knows tattoo’s and face piercing’s aren’t desirable accessories to potential employers, unless accepted by the industry aka jobs you’ve worked (construction, sales, services). Hint hint

      Lastly, Victoria and Vancouver are two of the most expensive places to live in Canada! It seems so simple, if you cant make it work, RELOCATE!

      I like the fact that you’re sitting outside the bad business owners shops, there are very bad business owners in Victoria and every city. But I am so bothered by the fact that you are sitting with people that obviously cannot work due to mental or physical disabilities. You are the type of person I will not give change to – the perfectly able person who’s attitude and refusal to uproot or work for minimum wage keeps them unemployed.

    • Blow

      What I have gathered from your articles is that you have a bad attitude. This is probably why you have unsuccessfully worked so many low-wage service jobs. Employers don’t want to hire someone that has worked 6 different jobs in a year. If you haven’t already, remove all irrelevant jobs and bad references from your resume.

      You say you went to design school and started your own company – if Vancouver Island is anything, it is a place that supports local business owners and niche ideas. Everyone knows this.

      Everyone also knows tattoo’s and face piercing’s aren’t desirable accessories to potential employers, unless accepted by the industry aka jobs you’ve worked (construction, sales, services). Hint hint

      Lastly, Victoria and Vancouver are two of the most expensive places to live in Canada! It seems so simple, if you cant make it work, RELOCATE!

      I like the fact that you’re sitting outside the bad business owners shops, there are very bad business owners in Victoria and every city. But I am so bothered by the fact that you are sitting with people that obviously cannot work due to mental or physical disabilities. You are the type of person I will not give change to – the perfectly able person who’s attitude and refusal to uproot or work for minimum wage keeps them unemployed.

    • Vendrasha

      Both parts one and two of your so-called “Riches to Rags” story are chock full of entitlement, misplaced blame, an inflated sense of self-worth, and poor life choices, with an even poorer attitude to top it all off. You have faced no more misfortune than the average person, but what differentiates you from others is your apparently inherent inability to partake in any kind of meaningful, objective self-reflection, or to accept the consequences of your own actions and possibly even learn from them. In fact, the only thing missing from your story is any semblance of personal accountability.

      As a heavily-tattooed person myself, I take issue with your portrayal of yourself as an innocent victim of society’s exaggerated prejudice against body modification, as though this were somehow a surprising new development that you couldn’t have possibly foreseen. You play to your audience’s liberality (this is HUSH Magazine, after all), lamenting this horrible injustice and bemoaning the day you were forced to move to such a backwards, discriminatory town. And yet your argument fails to consider your own responsibility in the matter. You are not innocent; you do not have plausible deniability. This kind of prejudice (which, I might add, occurs far less frequently nowadays than you would have your readers believe) has existed nation-wide – nay, western-world-wide – for decades. You knew full well it existed, and yet you chose to get tattoos anyway. But not just any tattoos! No, you made a conscious and deliberate decision to get tattoos that would be very difficult to cover up. Maybe you were trying to fit in. Maybe you were trying to look hardcore. Maybe it was just your way of saying “fuck the man!” and showing the world that you’re an Individual™.

      Regardless of your motives, the fact of the matter is that you made an informed decision. You wanted your tattoos to be seen by anyone and everyone, but now that you’re (apparently) faced with the consequences of that decision, you’re deflecting all responsibility away from yourself and choosing instead to blame society for the position you now find yourself in.

      Now with that out of the way, allow me to continue to my second point: your employment situation. This will be a short one. You claim to have worked in a variety of industries for a variety of different employers, all of whom have “fucked [you] around” in some way or another. Well, I would like to suggest that if your personality is even half so abrasive as it comes across in your posts, perhaps you ought to reconsider your perspective. After all, the only common denominator between them all is you. Think on that for a while.

      My third point is not so much a point as it is a question, one that has been asked before but has failed to elicit a response: what of your family? You claim your family desperately needed you to move to Victoria to help out (with what, I’m not sure. You were rather vague on the details), but where are they now? After such a selfless display of familial loyalty as yours, has your family simply abandoned you in your hour of need?

      Finally, my fourth point of contention: your deceptive, exploitative, self-serving manipulation of the public’s compassion and generosity. Do not pretend you were conducting some noble social “experiment” or have embarked on a soul-searching quest for “community”. The only experiment you were conducting was whether or not you could rake in $170 a day by putting in only so much effort as it takes to prey on the kindness of others. Because if a disabled, brain-damaged hobo like Ron can make it work, then surely a “wise” girl like yourself can pull it off no problem, right? Your insinuated superiority is the only reason I can see for you even mentioning him in this post, other than maybe trying to milk your tenuous association with him for every brownie point you can get. You are in no way furthering his cause or advocating for his benefit, so why even bring him up?

      Oh, that’s right. You’re Sylvery Gray, implied humanitarian of the year.

      Your stated “goal” of exposing bad employers and showing them how their actions can affect people is little more than a vindictive and adolescent attempt at a guilt trip, complete with obligatory wails of “look what you’ve done to me!”. Furthermore, your claim that Victoria lacks a sense of “community” is entirely unfounded. You came to Victoria with a chip on your shoulder and a bitter, predetermined hatred for the place. In reality, Victoria has plenty of “community”; your attitude has simply isolated you from it. Once again, we find your own behaviour has resulted in consequences for which you refuse to take responsibility.

      But perhaps the most offensive part of all of this is your blatant disregard and lack of appreciation for the plights of the truly homeless. Your insulting perpetuation of negative stereotypes (and your clear acceptance of them as fact), along with your fraudulent and reprehensible behaviour, is an enormous detriment to the real homeless population of Victoria and the hard work of those who advocate for them.

      You are not homeless. You are not suffering from a debilitating mental illness or disability that legitimately prevents you from working. You are suffering only from irresponsibility, entitlement, and the consequences of your own actions. This is a truly despicable and callous display of near sighted self-interest, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

      Sincerely,
      Vendrasha

      PS – In the interests of full disclosure, you may wish to add “…unless it’s at Subway, because fuck being a sandwich artist” directly below the third line of your sign.

    • disqus_e9zo7zLICf

      Choosing to panhandle and cover yourself with dirt to appear homeless because your feelings are hurt you didn’t get a job… congratulations, you are a jackass.

    • hs39

      This is absolutely ridiculous, you are making a mockery of the homeless community because of your inability to maintain stable employment. My advice to you: if you don’t want to be stuck in the food / retail industry start saving and get into whatever entry level school you can; be it Sprott Shaw or Camosun.

      You said you ran your own business, well go back and keep at it! The city of Victoria doesn’t owe you anything, if you are struggling that much to pay bills then you should think about living somewhere else. I totally understand that Victoria is an expensive place to live, but just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you start panhandling to make a point.

    • Andy Chen

      According to the Low Income Cut-off (LICO) measure of poverty, 9% of all Canadians (3.5 million) are poor. This is a real social problem and in the face of declining “real” wages people have had to resort to different methods for survival. Bad attitude has little to do with the fact that people are finding it really difficult just to meet basic needs. Each story should be shared and not judged. Early Canadians participated in the slow “ethnic cleansing” and genocide of First Nations people and the Truth and Reconciliation commission is all about collecting first hand accounts of first nations’ treatment in residential schools. Without these stories, how do we know the true impact of social policy or lack there of? Should we have a Commission on Poverty in this country? I think so.

    • Understanding Guy

      You know shit like this can happen to anyone. I’ve lived in vic my entire life and been banging nails since I was 17. Went to camosun got my red seal journeyman certificate in carpentry and spent the last 20 years making good money. Shit has really dropped off the cliff since 2010. I’m not homeless, but I know how fast shit adds up and can make you homeless.

      Never take your current status for granted…shit happens, you could be the next on the corner of douglas and fort.
      Just go down to your local union and look at all those cards on the board, every card is a guy looking for a job. I’ve never worked union but figured I’d give it a go since I have my ticket, the receptionist said “now is not a good time to join the union”. I never bothered.

      Being self employed ain’t no cake walk either…it’s tuff out there and you had better keep a very sharp pencil. This is what i’ve been doing the past 5 years but it is NOT steady or reliable and guys will cut your throat for $200 to get the job. Competition is fierce and is only going to get worse…market saturation.

      Chin up girl, pack your kid and head to AB where they have “help wanted” signs on every other window. VanIsle is going to be a waste land over the coming years as there is nothing driving it other then govt workers and the service sector which is pretty much on its knees ATM.
      Do it for your kid…cuz there is no future here for the coming generations looking for decent work.

      I’m looking to move to AB in the next couplefew years…not because I wanna go work there and freeze my balls off, rather I have 2 young boys that need a future and sadly this is not the place for them. I can see the energy sector in AB only growing for quit some time (decades).

      And for all those do good’r, pre-madona bitches thinking they’re better than everyone else …Fuck You.

    • Ruth Cee

      I can’t believe this even got published, you should be ashamed of yourself, making a mockery of a real social issue like poverty. Shame on you.

    • Pingback: Riches To Rags – How Victoria Drove Me To Homelessness | Sylvery J. Gray

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