My homeless friend Ivan walks with a pronounced limp but, as a rule, he does not need to support himself with a cane—normally he supports himself with a bicycle.
He supports himself financially by riding around the Fairview neighbourhood and collecting returnable beverage containers. And he supports himself physically when he needs to walk any distance by holding onto his bike.
But Monday evening (February 5) Ivan was supporting himself with a cane—one that he found in the garbage—because three days earlier his bike was stolen while he slept beside it.
The theft was the action of a moment and the thing that was stolen was an old, beaten up mountain bike; who knows what it meant to the person who stole it—perhaps a lot, perhaps very little, perhaps nothing more than an opportunity and an impulse not to be resisted.
But for Ivan, the bike represented freedom, mobility and—to be blunt—self sufficiency. Until another bike is found to replace the one that was taken from him, Ivan faces a difficult time earning money to support himself.
Need is a poor excuse for stealing from the homeless
Like most bike-owning homeless people I’ve known, Ivan is careful to sleep with his bike between himself and a wall; this way anyone who wants his wheels will literally have to take them over his snoring body.
Unfortunately, between the night of Friday (February 2) and the morning of Saturday (February 3), some brazen scumbag snuck up in the dark, reached behind Ivan while he slept, and lifted the bike up, up and away.
The thief also made off with Ivan’s bike helmet. (There’s a $29 fine for homeless people caught cycling without one in Vancouver.)
Ivan admitted that he didn’t lock his bike on Friday night, which surprised me. Last I had been aware, he had a sweet Abus folding lock.
I don’t know if he lost it or just neglected to use it this one time but either way it doesn’t matter—Ivan is in no way to blame. The victim is never to blame for the crime.
The person who committed the theft bears the entire responsibility, whatever their justification and whomever they chose to blame.
Of course there are many impoverished individuals, homeless or otherwise, who will use their personal circumstances to justify stealing from others, including from other homeless people.
By and large however, most homeless people look on stealing from their own as unjustifiably reprehensible and beyond the pale—worse even than stealing candy from proverbial babies.
In my experience, homeless people and so-called street-embedded people will rally around their peers who have been robbed and try to replace any stolen necessities. And likewise, anyone who is identified as having stolen from their street peers will be indelibly marked (at least by word of mouth) and ostracized by one degree or another.
You can bet that Ivan and all of us who know him will be scouring the alleys to find a replacement for his stolen bike. And should any of us find the bike thief, well, you won’t be reading about that here.