By Tristan Thackray
During the past week, Toronto’s panhandlers have come under a great deal of scrutiny after the death of Ross Hammond on Aug. 12.
Police say Hammond was stabbed to death after he refused to give money and an argument ensued. While the resulting public outcry may call for an immediate ban on panhandling, absolute answers for such an intricate issue may be as hard to come by as Lindsay Lohan’s dignity.
When faced with the desperation of homelessness in Toronto, the unfortunate reality is that, for most, we simply wish it wasn’t there.
It would be great if the problem would disappear and we wouldn’t have to worry about anybody else wanting our money.
Lord knows there’s tuition.
Ryerson students will find panhandlers asking them for money to be an everyday occurrence — on most days it happens multiple times. It’s part of everyday life within the core of a sprawling metropolis.
Some people learn to ignore beggars, others can’t, and some just don’t know what to do. Even those of us who have lived in suburbs a short drive from downtown haven’t seen the city’s homeless problem as close as we do every day at Ryerson. For those, here are a few suggestions:
If someone asks for money or for something that you don’t want to give, say “I’m sorry,” and go on about your business. There’s so many things that are right in saying this. You’re sorry that you actually don’t have any change, or that you need it for the bus, or maybe that you just don’t want to give them your money. Regardless, you validate them as a person while being true to yourself.
Give them money. It doesn’t matter how much, or what they are going to do with it. What you did in giving them money was a good thing to do, and regardless of where it goes you can feel good about yourself for being selfless.
Believe me, that dollar means more to them than it does to you.
If you really have the guts, and the situation is right, try talking to them. There is a tremendous amount you could learn about yourself, people, or life in general during a conversation with anyone walking in a different pair of shoes. That, or learn to identify those who really are crazy.
If you don’t feel comfortable giving money directly to someone who is homeless but still want to help, consider a donation to any charity that supports the homeless of Toronto, such as the United Way.