October 21, 2019
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The Street Charity League
by Harrison Kim (short, PG-13)
Harrison Kim lives in Victoria, Canada with his editor and wife Sera. He worked 29 years as a teacher at a Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, and has temporarily lived as a homeless person, commuting to work from his hammock on Burnaby Mountain near Vancouver, Canada, back when it was much safer and less common.
Rick Aduana speaks to Johnston Moberly at the homeless person tent village by Markos Lake.
"Sir, I perceive you're a new beggar in Hipster Town."
"What's it to you?"
"Well, I'm Rick Aduana, part of the enforcement team. It's my job to make sure you're following the rules."
"What rules are you talking about?"
"You're using a particular spot here, yes? In front of the Royal National Bank? We saw you there today."
"Yes. Could you stand a bit further back, please?"
"I'll stand where I want, until I find out more about you. Now, the rent for this prime financial location is twenty dollars a day."
"You can easily make fifty in a few hours from both our regular and random clients."
"What are you talking about? Please, get your shoe off my foot."
"Yes, it hurts, doesn't it? Listen. Me and my two buddies over there started out exactly like you, as single entrepreneurs in prime panhandle country. This is a rich tourist town. Over the last year a lot of competition arrived to partake of the bounty. A bit like a gold rush. The three of us had to organize, join forces. You could call us a survival management team."
"I'm only asking for money for food."
"When I started out, friend, I panhandled just til I made enough for a dime bag of marijuana. So did my two large friends over there."
"I don't do drugs."
"Either you're a druggie, or you're crazy, or both. Or maybe you're like I was. Trying to obtain enough for a dime bag. What is it?"
"Ow, that hurts! Okay. I'll tell you. It's presents. For my girlfriend. You know, smokes and bingo cards. Maybe a movie."
"So, why are you living here down by the lake?"
"They told me anyone can pitch a tent here. It's government land."
"Yes, with a million-dollar view. How are you getting your welfare cheque, snail mail?"
"I'm not on welfare. I do day labour on the salad line at the Vegipro factory."
"You sound like a man with potential ... now you only need to pay your share of the rent."
"How do you mean?."
"Things have changed, my man. Panhandling here's a communal experience. My confederates and I don't take kindly to people stealing our prime business locations. We enforce a charge, for everyone's sake. We don't want our generous clients to become sick of us and our demands."
"Please, your garlic breath is going right in my face."
"Didn't you hear me?"
"Yes, okay, please stop pinching my arm."
"I will as soon as you pay us the twenty bucks."
Report From Rick Aduana
Rick Aduana at City Hall talking with the mayor
"Ms. Mayor, we have organized one panhandler only on every street."
"Business will like that. How do you enforce it?"
"There's a twenty dollar a day space rental charge. Those who don't pay are evicted."
"You mean, they have to leave town."
"What's your group's purpose meeting me today?"
"We want to make sure that the panhandlers are polite, clean and appropriate. That takes a lot of hours and skill to enforce. I'm a bit autistic. I enjoy order, and our reputation precedes us. No drastic measures necessary. We're simply asking for a monthly stipend from the city for our services, let's say a thousand dollars each."
"I guess it could be worse."
"You'll notice that none of our chosen panhandlers is a hard drug or overt alcohol user. Some smoke marijuana, sure, but that's not dangerous."
"What will you call yourselves?"
"The Street Charity League. But what's most important is what you call us. We're here to serve you."
"And the next step?"
"Sign this contract. "
"What if we turn you down?"
"Oh, we'd simply stop enforcement. This is a generous community. It's full of liberal-minded folks holding a lot of empathy and cash. Your anti begging bylaw won't fly. Isn't it true most of your business taxes come from tourism?"
Rick Aduana's e mail to his Mom
Click HERE for Harrison Kim's blog.
Article © Harrison Kim. All rights reserved.
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The Street Charity League -- Harrison Kim
~ Harrison Kim lives in Victoria, Canada with his editor and wife Sera. He worked 29 years as a teacher at a Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, and has temporarily lived as a homeless person, commuting to work from his hammock on Burnaby Mountain near Vancouver, Canada, back when it was much safer and less common.