Homeless in Vancouver: A binner’s work is never done

This is a panorama, using AutoStitch, of 30 or so photos taken last night while I was standing on Spruce Street on the south side of West Broadway Avenue, looking west back down the alley I had just come out of.

If you know that I’m a binner—that I collect returnable containers—then you won’t be surprised I was going through a back alley. That’s what binners do and that’s the point of the photo and this post.

The point of doing the photo as a panorama is to capture something closer to the field of view I actually saw;  our eyes have a field of view about four times as large as a camera.

Binned there, done that

There are lots of people who clearly treat binning as an avocation—they collect returnable containers now and again as a hobby; they’re just happy to make a couple of bucks.

Many elderly people I’ve seen in the back alleys over the years have told me they collect returnables as an excuse to get out and about; they’re just happy to get some exercise. I even believe some of the elders who have told me this.

My approach towards binning was deeply influenced by the largely unsolicited advice I received from older homeless binners I encountered back in 2004 (many of whom are dead now).

If you’re going to make any sort of living as a binner—actually support yourself—you need to treat it like a job, they all told me.

Nine years later, I would be more specific: not a part-time job but at least a full-time nine-to-five job.

The mindset of full-time binners is not that of employees but rather of self-employed tradespeople or entrepreneurs or doctors for that matter.

Which brings me back to last night. The time was well after 11 p.m. I was far less interesting in looking for returnables than just going to bed, but I still made the trip through a back alley and I did look. Full-time binners are always on the job.

People may disagree with how we choose to direct our work ethic, but it’s foolish to say we don’t have one. 

Click the image to enlarge it.

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