It’s another typical Friday night downtown Toronto. Rush hour has just begun when Pete and I get off the GO train at Union station. Pedestrian traffic is thick, hurried and confused. A guy at the corner is passing out pamphlets with “public importancies.” I have 40 pairs of socks in my military duffel donated by Julee Lalonde Prince. Within minutes, Pete and I hand out ten pairs to the homeless who make a living at the corner of Front and Bay.
We make our way to Winner’s on Front where Pete purchases 20 pairs each of winter socks, underwear and gloves – the three things deemed most important by the homeless we met last weekend while passing out socks the first time.
Pete’s quest to provide these things was inspired by his friend’s little girl, whose family started WarmToes, and has supplied almost 10,000 pairs of socks to the homeless in that city over the past 5 years. I am more than happy to carry the 50 lbs of gear in my duffel as we wander through downtown meeting and greeting the destitute of Toronto.
One of the first people we meet tells us that he’s not homeless – he’s just down on his luck – laid off and run out of unemployment benefits. So he’s panning change to pay the rent for his family.
The stories of these people are widely varied. Some really are homeless, some are alcoholic, drug addicted or just unlucky.
Just before Queen St., walking up Yonge, we meet Jerry who tells us “This is just one of my manifestations. I’m global. My other manifestations are all over the world. We’re preparing to rise up and make global change. If you meet any of my others, I’m sure they’d like socks too.”
“We’ll surely give them some if we see them Jerry,”
As we walk further, we come across Jesse, an elderly man in a wheelchair panning outside a variety store.
“HEY! The sock guys!”
Two Friday nights out on the streets and we’re already known. We don’t do this for self-aggrandizement but it’s definitely a great thing to be recognized and appreciated.
We chat with Jesse for a bit before continuing on. He’s having a good week with the weather still being in plus temperatures in mid-December.
A little further on we’re talking to a guy in a sleeping bag at Sherbourne and King. He doesn’t want anything from us. A young guy – maybe 20 – stops and inquires about what we’re doing. When we tell him he gives us five bucks which Pete promptly puts in the homeless guy’s bag.
Looking closely at this side of life changes a person. Many of us are only a few steps from being on the street. Helping those already there is “noblesse oblige.” It’s a choice to help these people which cannot be prejudiced by whatever reason they’re out there.