As I was walking down Granville Street, I met a man named Jim. He was panhandling on the side of the street. I asked him if it was OK for me to join him. I sat down and started talking to him. He was not very comfortable with me asking him questions. So I started to sit next to him in silence instead. After a few minutes, he started asking me questions. I told him my story. I wanted to spend Christmas with the other side of my family, the side that I have neglected for much too long.
I asked Jim to give me some street survival tips. He told me not to steal. That is some solid advice. I kept bombarding him with more questions. I asked him what time the Union Gospel Mission will serve food. He replied with 6:30 pm.
Jim was starting to receive money; each person was dropping a minimum of two dollars into his cup. An elderly lady reached into her pocket only to find a chocolate candy. She gave him the candy with a smile. Jim wasn’t too pleased with that offer; he wanted money to feed his unfortunate habit.
After half an hour, I thanked Jim for allowing me to sit next to him and continued on my journey. I started walking north of Granville Street. A few minutes later, Jim caught up to me. He told me that he lived across the street from the Union Gospel Mission. I asked him if he could show me where it is and how to get there.
We decided to take the bus together. This is where my bus fare ticket came into play. As we were riding the bus down Hastings, Jim asked me if I had wanted to come over to his place. I gladly accepted his offer. I replied saying “I will go anywhere I am welcome”. He said that he had no TV or other forms of entertainment. Those things didn’t matter to me since I haven’t watched TV for over two years now. My form of entertainment is life.
As we got off the bus on Main and Hastings, which is known as “the worst part of Vancouver”, Jim walked around asking for drugs and cigarettes with the money he collected from panhandling. I felt a bit uneasy at this point. Well, most of my friends and family have their mind made up about this place without ever having set foot here. The consensus was that the downtown Eastside was dangerous and that you will get mugged, stabbed, beaten, or shot if you hang out here. The media’s perception on this area surely did not help either.
Once he finished purchasing his needs, he tried to invite me into his place. However, I was not allowed to enter. The manager there said that they did not allow any visitors into the building. Jim told me to stop by his place tomorrow morning and ask for him. I made myself a new friend.