The Garden City Refugee

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Bloody Wednesday in the Core

June 16, 2021

Going down King Street, I spot a guy on the sidewalk with a woman standing next to him. The guy is holding something on the side of his face. Looking down, there is a blood covering his shirt and pants. He clearly did not just fall and cut himself by accident. The woman is only passively interested as three police cars pull up with one officer in each car. The officers get out and try to talk to the guy. He’s not saying much. The officers don’t press him too hard. One officer goes inside to the nearby RBC branch. Perhaps she was checking to see if they have any cameras that may be able to shed some light on what happened. Or maybe she had some banking to take care of. Might as well while you’re there. Whatever the case, she comes out quickly and rejoins her colleagues as they await the ambulance. Which comes pretty quickly. The paramedics tend to him, put him in the back and take off in the direction of the hospital. With any luck, his injuries will be deemed essential enough to be worthy of receiving medical care. Emergency rooms are empty. But they still might turn him away. After all, someone might get a flu virus. And naturally, that would take priority over anything life-threatening. The staff might have to get special permission from Dr. Doug Ford, the province’s chief medical officer, to admit him. Once the paramedics leave, the officers, one by one, get in their cars and leave also. No yellow tape. No cordoning off a mile-wide radius around the scene. Which reminds me once again that I am no longer in Winnipeg, where police live for the chance to disrupt traffic and cause chaos. Just because they can.

Watching this bloody drama unfold is a community resident bum seated on a bench with a bike better than mine. He is puffing on a cigarette as another guy walks by tossing bread crumbs all over the sidewalk. “Just feeding the birds,” he says. “They’re hungrier than we are, eh?” After a couple of minutes, the community resident bum takes off on his bike down the street past the scene and turns down a side street. He returns shortly, lights another cigarette and takes a piece of paper out of his pocket. He unfolds it, looks at it, then crumples it up and tosses it away. Looking at him from the side, he’s got a big gut. He may be down on his luck, but I take comfort in the knowledge that he’s not missing any meals.

Over at the library, a loud woman is holding court with two community residents bums. She is thin and years of hard living are written all over her face. But she’s not lacking for funds, as she’s sporting a black Calvin Klein hoodie. And she’s got money for cigarettes. She even offers one to one of the community residents bums. She puffs away as she keeps an eye on the toddler in the stroller she’s pushing. Whereas governments declare a state of emergency over a flu virus, allowing infants to be exposed to carcinogenic smoke qualifies as a big yawn. “You’re really going to put me to work today, eh?” she says to someone on her phone as she walks away.

Across the street at City Hall is a gathering of four community residents bums, one of whom is particularly animated. He has a bike, again, better than mine, and a dog. He lets the dog roam all over the freshly manicured grass and among the pretty flowers the staff have planted. Whereas so many among us have been put out of a job, city employees remain hard at work and none of them have lost a single dollar throughout this “crisis.” No doubt some have even gotten a raise, just like our MPs. After collecting his dog, he proudly shows off all his tattoos to his buddies, who don’t seem all that impressed. No doubt, they’re like me and asking why he’s spending money on tattoos when they are obviously so destitute that they’re probably living on the street or in a homeless shelter.

There are new sights under the canopy at the library, which has been seen more use as a homeless shelter over the past year than anything related to books.

I don’t want to know what substance caused this stain.



Despite the presence of so many garbage receptacles nearby, there is also a potpourri of trash:


A community resident bum surveys the piles and shakes his head. Even he is embarrassed. “It only takes a couple of bad ones,” he says. But that does not stop him from rummaging through it all looking for some goodies. Sadly, however, he finds nothing of value and moves on after commiserating with a couple of his buddies.

Back on King Street is another woman who looks about 20 years older than her actual age. She takes a look at me and begins repeating “Bike belts o melt” over and over before going into a convenience store. Farther down the street is another community resident bum outside a convenience store who is walking with a limp as he circles around his bike over and over again. Like a dog chasing its tail. He stops when a buddy of his comes out and they start chatting. Nearby is a woman seated on a park bench. Or maybe a man. It’s hard to tell sometimes. In any event, he/she is just sitting there amusing him/herself by twiddling a wooden stick.

Over at the Salvation Army is a guy staggering around near the front door. He needs more than a free meal. He needs professional help to get off the substance he is clearly under the influence of. And from the looks of him, it is likely not the first time he has been under the influence of said substance.

On Queenston Street are still more pillars of society. An old guy walks by who looks somewhat normal, though even he doesn’t pass the garbage receptacle without looking inside to see if there’s anything of value in there. Another older guy, or possibly older woman, walks by. He/she is walking on the road. Then he/she goes back on the sidewalk. Seemingly choosing one or the other based on his/her fancy. Above the waist, he/she has some meat on those bones. But it is a different story down below. I’ve seen bigger and meatier drumsticks at KFC. If that’s all of him/her I saw, I’d think he/she just got out of a concentration camp. It is amazing how those rail-thin legs can even support his/her weight.

Farther down the street is a guy with a long, scruffy beard keeping watch on a grocery cart heaping full of aluminum cans, no doubt many of which contained LCBO products. He is busy checking something on his phone. But every few seconds, he goes to his mouth and licks his fingers. Across the street is a woman who, like Salvation Army Guy, is clearly under the influence of some illicit substance. She can barely stand on her feet, let alone hold onto the coffee cup she’s got in her hands. Somehow, she manages to make it across the street without falling. She also maintains her hold on the cup.

All told, it is an experience that again reminds me of the slogan used by the St. Catharines Downtown Association.

Do more in the core.

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