Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Red Guitar, Graffiti Alley and No Home


I was walking through graffiti alley looking for anything new since my last visit and I ran into James. Originally from Winnipeg, he hitched a ride on a freight train to Vancouver hoping to find work and a place to live. Unfortunately he found neither. I asked him if he could play me a tune, and he sloppily obliged with a one-handed riff.

Hanging out with his guitar and his cd player, he told me he just became homeless. Smelling strongly of alcohol, he asked if he could get some change to buy food. I told him I have a policy of buying something to eat instead of handing out money so he happily agreed. In fact, he stood up and started to dance...

After returning with a Tim Horton's sandwich, coffee and doughnut combo deal, he gave me a big hug and began munching down on the food. He showed me his bible and told me he's a God-fearing man so I told him I'd read him a few passages while he ate. As I read to him he began to cry and thanked me for my time.

He mentioned he needed money to buy strings for his guitar but I clearly told him no. I said straight to his face that I knew the money wouldn't go to strings. I told him he needs to get some help, and sadly there was nothing more I could do for him except offer him some positive words of encouragement. Sadly, I know there isn't too much hope, as long as he continues to abuse alcohol.

I just wanted to take pictures of graffiti, but instead I ended up meeting James. His bright red guitar and the colourful graffiti background was a stark contrast to James' actual situation. No home, no job, and very little hope. I was contemplating not to publish this picture. Was I capitalizing on his horrible circumstance just to post this image? Just because I bought him lunch, is that payment enough? In the end I decided it was important to share his story. Everyone has a story to tell. Unfortunately, in this neighbourhood, it's far too often the same sad tale repeated over and over...

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