“The snow is raining!”
That was how one of the staff in the 1400 block West Broadway McDonald’s reacted to the thick snow flurries at 12:30 p.m. on Friday (February 8).
The lunch hour flurries actually lasted less than an hour; starting small, at just after noon, growing in intensity for half an hour, and then petering out by 12:45 p.m.
Amid the snow flurry, snow crews hurry
A half hour in—as the flurries were reaching a peak—the intersection of West Broadway and Granville Street saw a coincidental flurry of City of Vancouver dump trucks—one travelling east, the other west.
Both were loaded with road salt and fitted with bright orange snow-plow blades.
Apropos of nothing, as the snow flurried and the cars and pedestrians hurried, I saw a young Indigenous panhandler holding a paper cup for change and standing his ground under the shelter of an awning in the 1400 block of West Broadway.
He was clearly unmoved by February in Vancouver.
He explained to me that he was used to winter in Vanderhoof. This is a small town of about 4,500 people, located in the interior of B.C. where—as I write—the temperature is -14° C, as compared to 1° C here in Vancouver.
Earning cold hard cash is kind of hard on a cold day
By 1 p.m. the 30-something, street-level entrepreneur was sitting beside me in McDonald’s and counting his haul of coins.
He told me that he had been working the corner steadily since 10 a.m. According to his count though, in that three hours he had made just $24.50, which works out to $8.16 per hour, far below B.C.’s minimum hourly wage of $12.65.
This panhandler’s take would also be considered a mediocre result for back alley bottle picking—normally, at least.
This week though, binning for returnable beverage containers can be a bit more challenging, thanks to the subzero temperatures.
The cold-weather-related complications include (but are not limited to) treacherous ice in the back alleys—both underfoot and in the recycling blue bins.
The first instance can lead to dangerous slips and falls, while the second can present a binner with bins full of returnable containers that are annoyingly untouchable because they are embedded in ice,
Last but not least, a binner needs to be able to pickup and bag those containers that can be picked up—without freezing their fingers off!
Given the alternatives in such weather conditions, who can really blame a homeless person for resorting to panhandling?