Homeless in Vancouver: How NOT to sleep on the street!

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      Monday morning (September 17) at 10 a.m. I was having breakfast as usual in the South Granville McDonald’s when I noticed what looked like a yellow and black blanket, or a sleeping bag, laying on the narrow median between the east and westbound lanes of the 1400 block of West Broadway.

      At first I thought it was wind-blown debris left by the young fellow I had passed on the my way to breakfast. He’d been passed out on the sidewalk of the south side of the block—stretched out on top of a mess, consisting of a bicycle, plastic bags, and beverage containers.

      At 8 a.m., I had paused only long enough to elicit signs of life out of him. Two hours later, sitting in a window seat in McDonald’s, I had more or less put him out of my mind, in favour of more pressing concerns.

      The day before, my laptop had been douched with cold orange soda in the very restaurant I was now sitting in, and I was busy trying to coax signs of life out of the thing.

      Restaurant rage leads to a sticky situation

      The soda gumming up the insides of my laptop had been tossed by a random stranger who—out of the blue—started yelling that a friend and I were talking too much, with the immediate result that my friend fled in fear. The fellow’s rage inexplicably escalated until finally he threw his soda all over the place (including the place where my laptop was sitting) and the police had to be called.

      Plain water is bad enough, where electronics are concerned; sugar water can plain murder.

      And so it was that at 10 a.m. I was mostly focused on the desperate task of counting the sequence of blinks coming from the LED on the laptop’s Caps Lock key—this being the last-ditch means of communication for an otherwise mute Hewlett-Packard laptop in hardware distress.

      One, two, three, pause. One, two, three, pause.

      Three blinks could mean the laptop’s memory, I remembered. But then, at the same time, I also remembered that the young guy hadn’t been using a blanket or sleeping bag. But he had been wearing a yellow jacket and black pants.

      So I asked the restaurant staff to keep an eye on my sticky laptop and I dashed up the block to have a look.

      Talk about the invisible homeless!

      The bike and bags and bottles the fellow left strewn on the south sidewalk.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Sure enough, the bike and the bags and bottles from the morning were still strewn all over the sidewalk. But the fellow who had been using them for a bed at 8 a.m. was now sleeping over on the narrow concrete median. Well, most of him was. His knees were poking perilously out into the eastbound lane.

      I was frankly amazed. Many people have tried panhandling on this stretch of median but I have never seen anyone try to sleep on it!

      Meanwhile, none of the traffic speeding through that lane evidenced any awareness that an actual person was all but laying on the roadway. (All the fellow had to do, I thought, was roll over in his sleep and he would be on the roadway!)

      The fellow was likewise invisible to the crowd of people standing across from him at the eastbound 99-B Line bus stop.

      Less than seven minutes after I called the non-emergency number, police, ambulance and fire had converged on the 1400 block—a very fast response.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      I gave my head a shake and called the non-emergency number of the Vancouver Police Department. In less than a minute I was speaking with an operator who wasted no time in dispatching an emergency response.

      Within seven minutes a VPD cruiser was on the scene—then an ambulance, then another police cruiser and finally a Fire and Rescue truck.

      All in all it was big response for one sleeping, likely homeless, guy. But more importantly, it was an emergency response in record time and the fellow was woken up and safely escorted to the sidewalk before any number of bad outcomes could happen.

      And as a result, all I had to write about was a relative non-event involving a woolly-headed person making a rather curious life choice, instead of a serious injury, or fatality—thank goodness!

      As for the laptop, given the rigamarole of failing functionality and freezes (and then hard shutdowns and restarts) that accompanied the writing of this post it, looks like it needs an emergency response of its own.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.