Disclaimer: this column is going to be worded in a rather blunt manner. If you’re easily offended or an SJW, you probably should stop reading now. Fair warning.
I’m not sure if it’s something in the water, just bad luck or what but I’ve been accosted by quite a number of beggars and panhandlers lately.
I do not now, nor will I ever, understand begging and panhandling. I’ve been told before the homelessness problem is vastly dominated by people suffering mental health issues, and some try to deal with their mental health issues with substance addictions thus making it impossible for them to hold a job. I’m not sure I buy that line, but that’s a subject for another column.
Previous city councils must have also disliked panhandling as much as I do, because, under the Community Standards Bylaw (literally, the standards which this community has agreed are acceptable), panhandling is illegal in Wetaskiwin.
There will always be social justice warriors who feel panhandlers should be given Citizen of the Year awards and $10.5 million. If you don’t know what SJW means, call Rachel Notley. She’ll tell you.
It’s not necessary for someone to beg for money. Growing up as one of multiple siblings in a single parent home, my mother made it clear we often had to go without because there was simply no money. When I decided I wanted a motorcycle, it was obvious nobody was going to buy me one. I didn’t blame my mother (or anyone else for that matter), I went and got a job after school. I understood Mom couldn’t afford to buy me a motorcycle, so I made the money and bought it myself.
When I went to college, I didn’t have the benefit of affluent parents or grandparents; a number of friends who went to college at the same time had family regularly dropping $500 to $1,200 every few weeks into their bank accounts. That was not an option in my case, I did it myself by selling my motorcycle, getting a student loan and working a part time job in addition to 40 hours of class a week. That’s what had to be done. Living in Calgary for two years, I remember plenty of times on 16th Ave or in the downtown core people coming up to me and asking for money. Some of these people looked like they needed that money; some of them didn’t. Regardless, I had nothing to give.
After grad, I went into community journalism, living on $800 a month at one of my early jobs. Yep, you read that correctly. The guy I worked for still complained on a regular basis that he “wasn’t getting his money’s worth out of me.” I still managed to have my own pad, drive a car legally and live life. Whenever I see someone hitchhiking, I always mutter, “Only $800 a month and I was still able to own a car.”
Counting the years I was in college, I’m in my 24th year of community journalism and over those years I’ve paid off a student loan, bought cars, paid rent, paid taxes and still had a bit left over to live life to its fullest.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “What does this guy think, that he’s special or something?”
No, I don’t think I’m special at all, and that’s the point I’m trying to make. I’m an average type of fellow, I didn’t come from money and yet I’ve never had to panhandle.
If I can do it, anybody can. But whether they do or not I guess is up to them.
Stu Salkeld is the editor of The Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.