Jun 26, 2011


Panhandlers (a pretty name for beggars) here, there, and everywhere…

  • He looks old, posture stooped as he sits on a bucket by the CIBC beggars cupbank, a harmonica in one hand perched up against his lips playing non-melodically with a Styrofoam cup in the other hand shaking periodically as he pauses to say. “Spear some change?”
  • Dressed casually a young Caucasian male in his early to mid thirties approximately six feet tall stands by the entrance of the subway, knapsack on his back, a clear plastic bag with jeans inside clasped firmly in his right hand and his left hand outstretched. “Excuse me; do you have a loonie ($1.00), a toonie ($2.00) or a token please to spear so I can get in the subway?”
  • In his late fifties cloth in dirty khaki pants and shirt he sits crouched in the corner by the bank machine his legs folded under him, his fingernails black and grimy as he stretches it and asks. “Spear some change, any amount will do.”
  • Sitting between the bargain store and the school of Tai Quan Do he stretches every each time a pedestrian pass by, “spare some change?”
  • Male Caucasian in his late thirties about 150 pounds he walks the stretch from the subway to the bank, a cardboard sign in hand ‘WILL WORK FOR FOOD’.
  • Her black kinky hair sat matted and unkempt on her head, her clothes hanged loosely on her form dirty and dingy, her eyes wild. Her dark skin dirty as she moves briskly along the subway car speaking loudly, “Excuse me, excuse me, can you spear $2, I am really hungry, I haven’t eaten in days, please can somebody help me, I am really hungry”. When she gets no attention she goes from person to person invades their space as she gets close up to them and shouts excuse me can you give me $2 to buy something to eat, I am really hungry.” She will accept nothing less than $2. If she is given less than $2, she will throw it back at the person asking them what they expect her to do with that.
  • Standing in the road beside the streetcar stop, he stopped me before the streetcar came close, “Excuse me miss can you space five cents?” I looked at him, a young Caucasian man in his late twenties dressed casually, I burst out laughing and asked, "five cents, what can you get for five cents?" He looked at me amused and smiling himself and said, “well miss most people have five cents, if i ask for a $ they don't have”. I had little on me, I took out my change purse and emptied it in his hand, $2.75 and told him, “Thanks for the laugh, have a good evening”. I boarded the streetcar still smiling to myself.
  • She sways slightly, her steps jiggered; face swollen & flushed, eyes bloodshot. She is aboriginal in her mid to late thirties, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and smells of a combination of alcohol and pee. .she asks, “Please miss can you spear some change for something to eat, am hungry.” We walked to the pizza restaurant nearby, I asks her to order anything off the menu she likes. I pay the cashier and asks him to give her the change. She takes her food, the change, thanks me and sits and eat.
  • The cars stops at the traffic light and out jumps a young man squeegee in hand and a spray bottle in the other. He chooses a car and squeezes water unto the windshield, up, down, left; right he squeegees and waited expectantly for his monetary reward for cleaning the windshield. When he is rewarded he walks away happy. When he is not he is angry, he swears and sometimes resorts to hitting the trunks of the cars driven by the person he feels stiff him.
  • He canvases the food court walking up to people eating handing them a card that says he cannot speak and is in need of assistance can you please spear some change.
  • He is stationed in the Yonge subway, Northbound he plays his keyboard, Latin music, on the floor beside him lays the keyboard case with some CDs of his music and some dollar bills and coins. Crowds gather to listen; some pass by and drop coins as he continues to play.
  • He is south Asian older man probably in his mid to late sixties, he walks with a cane and drags his feet as he shovels along. He approaches anyone that make eye contact, "spare some change?"
  • He files through the garbage looking for food. He is young, early twenties Asian, eyes a bit wild, he stops and sips from a cup, he picks up a Mc Donalds half eaten burger and finishes it, he looks for more and finds nothing. He closes back the garbage and looks around. He approaches me, "spare some change". Ready with change in hand I drop in $3.00 and walked away with a pray in my mind for him that he find his way.
  • He lays across the heating vent on the sidewalk, tucked into his sleeping bag trying to stay warm on a cold winter's night, he sticks out a cloved hand..."spare some change for a coffee"
  • He sits on a milk crate craving Styrofoam into animals, pigs, horses, bears, lions, monkeys, cats, dogs, seals and chickens, which he neatly organizes on another milk crate that sports a sign that reads $2.00 each, he works meticulously.
  • She is Caucasian early to mid forties, shoulder length stringy brown hair, stands silently on Yonge street between Queen and Dundas with a cup filled with pens selling, holding a sign that says $1.00 each. I am surprised because i know her, I know her children, she pretends she doesn't see me even though she looked me straight in the eye. I let her. I give her that. I change my direction and walked the other way.

Panhandlers are pandemic in the city of Toronto, they are everywhere on every street corner, in the subway, in the trains, in the malls, at the bank, in the park from every walk of life, culture, ethnicity, every age, class and gender. Each have a story, what their individual story is I don’t know (It’s so easy to judge, so tempting to criticize, to turn up one’s nose in disgust and distain), what I do know is they are all somebody’s mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, uncle, child, husband, wife, grandmother, grandfather, son, and daughter. I pass and I pray, I see and I wonder, I hold myself accountable by preventing the judgmental thoughts ready to cast aspersions and I pray not only for them, I pray for me and I am ever mindful of my blessings.


  1. You are right; be it drugs, alcohol, mental illness or just hard luck that brought them someone loved them once and maybe someone still does.

  2. India has more than its share of them. Sometimes they’re even forced into it by local gangs. Whatever be the reason, they’re human. They probably did not get the opportunities that could have led them elsewhere. Nice of you to notice them and help them when you can. There are some places that even take them in…we can at least direct them to those.

  3. With the current economy the way it is, it only gets worse. I have seen stories of these poor unfortunates that for whatever reason are left homeless and hungry. We have shelters here where they can stay only at night and only until they fill up, a soup kitchen that serves evening meals where the line will stretch around the building and a church that serves lunches…There for the grace of God go I….

  4. This is a sad an old story in Japan and still so many pepole are in street, as a matter of fact it getting serious situation….but other ways very expensive restaurants are so busy thats something wrong in our society?We have in here too but more helps by Red cross. This is a great post!

  5. This is a very interesting collection of different ages, sex, size, and situations you’ve observed. It’s like you said, here, there, everywhere. But, the really really sad part about this is that with society the way it is today, you (a person) never knows if each one is genuine, if they are really in need or if they are scamming. That’s horrible to think, but the harsh reality is…people have devised all sorts of ways to scam others. Have a nice peaceful weekend, Rap.

  6. One thing I believe with all my heart.. A person who has lived on a street in box for many years has very bright light. People who live in a world of wealth and fame (unless they are very giving and compassionate) have less of a spiritual light than those who live homeless and cannot feed themselves. Of course it depends on every person cercumstances. I just know that real people no matter what, get rewarded in the end. With this being said….I DONT believe in anyone panhandling. If someone is hungry, I will give them food. NOT money!You have the best posts! It makes people think! xo

  7. Wonderful Post. But for the Grace of God…it could be anyone of us. I do give when I am able…because they are human beings just like us…and if the government isn’t going to help…we should do our best to lend a hand.Thank you for sharing this post.~Karin~

  8. rapping hun you are one helluva lady but i already knew that you just proved it. when you give without judging there really be no better giving than that………..and to give from the little you have well…………….or all of it…………….that is what nobleness is……….

  9. Panhandlers are a pandamic everywhere. They recently tried to pass some sort of ordinance to have a system like the parking meters installed on the streets of downtown Atlanta so that people could put their spare change in them and that goes towards panhandlers, but that was for a hot minute, nothing ever came of it. But these panhandlers be trying to tell people how much money they want, and they don’t want you to give them no food either, they want cash only! But I already learn my lesson back home in Trinidad from those so called "panhandlers", so I hardened my heart and I don’t give them a dime. I’m sorry!

  10. "They are not handicapped or discapabled why beg on the street?" This is the first thing came across my mind, common sensed. But wait, try to think thoroughly. I do not know why, how and what made them become panhandler. Am not in their shoes, I would never understand if never happened on me. Only persons involved knew the cause.How lucky am I…

  11. It's really sad that begging, homelessness and destitution happens. I see these issues as symptoms of alienation and displacement of the most vulnerable in society. And I fear that it is on the increase. The more society defines wellbeing by material success, the more greed spreads among the rich and the less there is for poor people.

    It's ironic that there are so many panhandlers in Toronto. I've often regarded Toronto as one of the 'cleanest' and 'welfare diligent' cities in the world.

  12. So many, needing money to live, and being forced through circumstances to live off the streets, and as you so rightly say It's so, so easy to judge. There's a maxim I use, "there but for the grace of God go I" and it's so true, it doesn't take much to take away what we have, a wrong decision, a job lost with extra bills to pay, an inability to cope with stress, all contribute to the downward spiral. It seems as times get harder, the poor and the most vulnerable are the hardest hit. A good read and to the point. xx

  13. Wonderful observations and character studies. Yes, these are people who have fallen on hard times. We have a crisis center for the homeless here in Charleston that I visit, and it is very sad to see whole families or single mothers with children having to stay there. But it is good there is a place for them to go to.

  14. We should thank God for the basic things he has given us. Cos the people you mention wish they had them. So sad

  15. Excellent character analysis of each person. You are right, we need to be ever thankful of our blessings and pray for the ones who are in need.

  16. They are pandemic as you say.They evoke different reactions.While we pity the children,the lame,handicapped and the sick, it is the able bodied men that invite our anger.In your post many were young and in their 30s or 40s.One should not encourage them.
    You have come out as a compassionate person readily moved by misery of others.

  17. Wow. I wonder how they got to that point? You know? You're right, you can't judge and wrinkle up your nose! At least some of them are trying to work for the money though. THat woman throwing money back at people na wa!!! :o

    The Corner Shop

  18. It's so sad....a heart-felt story...sometimes i just wonder how the panhandlers/beggars life was first before coming to this stage...at least one wanted to work for food...smh in pity.

  19. With all the riches here on planet earth, there will always be beggars. Sad, but true.

  20. And thanks so much for your lovely wishes on my blog!! A guest book seems like a fab idea :D



  21. Wonderful and inspiring you are my dear. It is difficult to see these people occasionally but daily that breaks my heart. You are kind to help out the way you did. I am turned off by the lady who won't accept less than $2 and the man who gets angry etc if you do not give him $ for windshield cleaning. There is no need to be that way.

  22. Rhapsody " panhandlers" as you call them are of course very much part and parcel of the Indian scene. It is actually an organized racket with a ring leader who puts them to work. You might like to watch this film called " Traffic Signal" - it is an Indian film by a director called Madhur Bhandarkar- about a group of such people around a traffic signal. GREAT film.

  23. *´¨)
    ¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•` ¤ It's not just Toronto, it's Winnipeg as well and almost everywhere else. They make their presence known, that's for sure.
    I have said this before and I'll say it again, most of us are just a pay check away from being homeless or one ourselves. Crap happens to us all, so I'll try and not judge the homeless too harshly ... God forbid, one day it could be me.
    It really doesn't bother me if someone asks me for my spare change, as I do have the option of saying no. To me, these people are no different than people who approach me saying "have you accepted Jesus Christ yada yada yada"? I have the option to simply walk away, I don't have to say something rude. My problem is when they are 'pushy' and 'in my face'. Respect my space and I shall respect yours!


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