Squeegee and Panhandling

No Violence!

Well I was shocked yesterday when I heard about an alleged assault of a driver in a convertible by a squeegee kid.  I remember the news reporting the details as “the squeegee kid offered to clean the drivers car windows and the driver said No and an argument ensued. The youth climbed into the passenger side of the car and proceeded to assault the driver. Police are investigating”.  So the first thing that comes to my mind is that there should be ZERO TOLERANCE  for any type of violence out on the streets, and no excuses for street people assaulting anyone regardless of antagonism, with the exception of self-defence.  The second is – These are my people, some are my friends, I know most of them by sight and many by name. What are we going to do? It’s like they’re committing hari-kari.

Obviously this is a very large issue and I’m going to be commenting on it extensively over the next few days.  Councillor Casey Ootes is renewing his call for a complete ban on panhandling in Toronto. Do you agree or disagree? Here’s some insight ito the news reports:  Quote”…the driver said no and an argument ensued…” .  Common sense tells us that the driver said much more than “no”,  he probably made good use of the f**k word and may have followed it up with the “get-a-job” epithet or some other pithy and , only to him, witty remark designed to hurt.  He may even have challenged the youth – thats for the police investigation to decide. I won’t say you get what you deserve, because there is no excuse for violence, but who is the first to have escalated the violence?, the driver or the squeegee kid? Is violence and assault only physical? No, of course not. Look into the issues surrounding violence against women and the first symptons are always “verbal abuse”-  Using violent hurtful language is a form of assault. And I can tell you from experience that these street youth face that violence hundreds of times a day.

Panhandling also comes under attack again, with the reminder that a “gang of panhandlers” murdered an innocent visitor to the city just last month. I’ll discuss this more in the next post. Just suffice it to say, the attackers were NOT a “gang” of panhandlers, they may not have even been from Toronto and just in town to visit, party and cause trouble…

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3 Responses

  1. Just a quick update – The driver, identified as David, and driving an antique MG, is quoted by the Toronto Star as having said, ” get the FU*K away from my car”…

  2. After reading your post I thought that maybe I’d add my 2 cents. Let me start by saying that for over a decade I have been working with people on and near to the streets. I have been involved in advocacy and education of homelessness.
    A few weeks ago I was stopped at the intersection of Bathurst and Queen. As a man approached my vehicle with a squeegee- I did my best to motion to him not to squeegee my window, I knew I had no change in the car otherwise I would have gladly let him clean my window-he seemed to not even be concerned with trying to make eye contact with me. I kept emphatically trying to signal to him to stop but he kept right on. In the past I have experienced very pleasant squeegee “individuals” (I find it hard to label them as kids since the practice is not just for the youth anymore) who were happy to clean a windshield whether they were paid or not–in those cases if I didn’t have change at the time I usually made a point of returning to give them money. However in this case as the light changed and I began to pull away and guy realized I really wasn’t going to pay him he proceeded to pounded on my windshield and yelled explicits at me.
    A situation similar to the one you’ve described above could easily have followed. Instead I took a deep breathe-expressed some expletives of my own using my “inside voice” and kept going. Now that may have been because I’m female, 5’2″, and never been much of a brawler but had I been a larger person, with more testoserone, no previous exposure or knowledge of homelessness or poverty and that guy slammed MY antique MG…I’m sorry but I think it would been ON!
    I don’t think we should ban panhandling or squeegees from our streets, personally I think hte diversity in our city is what makes Toronto such a great place to live. I do however thing that there does need to be a stop to some of the aggressive and hostile behaviour that is occurring that can often result in these violent incidents.
    We cannot expect that just because one person is homeless and another is not, that the person with the “home” will turn the other cheek and not react to someone else’s bad behaviour–who’s to say that Mr. Antique MG wasn’t already having a bad day when this happened?
    I think it’s great that we are educating the public on homelessness but there seems to be a culture of disrespect brewing on our streets and in our youth and poverty alone isn’t to blame because we’re seeing it even in afluent neighbourhoods. It’s how we treat each other. Is it the big city mentality? I dunno, Do I have a solution? Wish I did. Maybe in addition to trying to teach everyone else compassion towards the homeless we also need to find a way to teach the homeless too.

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful post Kat. I think you have zeroed in on a key issue – that culture of disrespect (and the resultant violence) that is present right across our whole society. That spirit of confrontation and th3e desire to save face or have the last word. I myself had a similar experience several years ago before I worked on the street. The squeegee kid went ahead and smeared my windshield even though I had clearly signalled no – and he saw me. And… it was ON…almost. I actually jumped out of the car and started yelling a few expletives of my own. I guess I was lucky the guy didn’t respond. That occurrence stayed in the back of my mind for many years, but came to the fore when the opportunity to serve with the homeless came up. I like your suggestion, “Maybe in addition to trying to teach everyone else compassion … we also need to find a way to teach the homeless too”. Yes, and heal their pain, out of which the beast arises.

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