Holding onto his corner downtown

Michael Conor McCarthy
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Brandon Bernard stands outside Confederation Court Mall March 14. The 18-year-old panhandles for spare change.

Brandon Bernard stood on Queen Street, leaning back into an alcove against the Confederation Court Mall. He had spent the day asking passers-by for change.

Tuesday was cold, but not unbearable. Bernard says the preceding winter was brutal; he had to sleep in a parkade most nights. He was glad for the chance to sleep on a friend’s couch Tuesday night, but he wasn’t going to leave his panhandling spot anytime soon.

An acquaintance of his, a short girl with blond hair, told him he should give her the spot for a while. He considered it, but the spot seemed to be working out too well.

“I made 70 bucks earlier!” he shouted back.

With the city looking into measures to crack down on panhandling, people like Bernard might be pushed out of Queen Street.

Brandon Chaisson, who works at the Factory Cookhouse, says he has seen the numbers of panhandlers grow over recent years.

Chaisson says he doesn’t find all panhandlers a nuisance.

“But there’s a lot of them who… there’s more of an addictive personality, who are just doing things towards drugs.”

This seems to be a common objection to allowing panhandlers on city streets.

Bernard doesn’t believe panhandling should go unregulated.

“When I see people using ...” he says, clearly objecting to others who collect the spare change to buy drugs. He points at a fellow panhandler who had walked past a minute before.

“It goes right in his arm.”

Major Daniel Roode, corps officer at the Salvation Army in Charlottetown, suggests offering to buy panhandlers a meal instead of giving them spare change.

“I do recommend that people should always treat people with respect and with graciousness,” he says.

“Some folk who are on the street have shared experiences that are formative in their mindset or approach to society,” says Roode.

Bernard is 18 years old. He was born in Charlottetown and attended high school at Colonel Gray. He says he tried the military but couldn’t take boot camp. He says he worked at Seafood 2000 but couldn’t stay after breaking his leg under containers of lobster.

He says that recently he went into the mall with copies of his resume when a security guard stopped him. He says the guard looked through his bag, finding marijuana and the resumes, and threw the resumes into a garbage can.

“I freaked out, and now I’m definitely kicked out of the mall,” says Bernard.

As he stood in his nook on Queen, Austin Veliquette, a friend, walked by with heavy metal playing from the black plastic headphones draped on his shoulders. Veliquette had attended Colonel Gray as well.

“I’ll still see if that opening at my work is still there, I’ll get you an application,” he said to Bernard.

Bernard thanked him, and went back to standing in his corner.

Organizations: Confederation Court Mall, Salvation Army, Seafood 2000

Geographic location: Queen Street, Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Welcome to the red light district
    March 20, 2016 - 11:21

    This young boy is slowly getting caught in his own lies. Sleuth around for yourself. Reminds me of a story called "The boy who cried wolf".

  • Mr. Brutal Honesty
    Mr. Brutal Honesty
    March 19, 2016 - 00:28

    Shameful. That new security cleaned up that mall. Kudo's to them. I've seen how it used to be with the other company's over the years and I can see a great difference with these new gentlemen. Anytime I have seen their security dealing with trouble it was always handled with good old fashioned professionalism. I have seen the security teams be harassed on an everyday basis by the likes of this person. That is a place a business meant for paying customers not bums and junkies. Maybe the cops should make a larger presence around the area of Kent street?

  • Jason MacDonald
    Jason MacDonald
    March 18, 2016 - 23:59

    To "Not trained security:" slandering workers based on the word of a single pan handler. Where you there? When was this? What time? Can this information be verified? Where is the evidence? Shame on you. Are you the judge jury and executioner of rumors and allegations against working class citizens?

  • Jason MacDonald
    Jason MacDonald
    March 18, 2016 - 23:58

    I see that group harassing the sec guys most days when I'm at Timmy's or shopping. Just because this fella says what he says doesn't make it true. There are actual people in need on this island but there are also people pretend they are in need. There are those that don't mind being asked for change from pan handlers but all people should have the right to be able to shop downtown without running into these pan handlers. No matter how you cut it, everyone will have their own opinion. Shame on the barber shop owner that raised this kid. Epic parenting fail. Also shame on the kid. WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE?

  • Linda A
    March 18, 2016 - 22:42

    I'm with "Wow" on this. There are organizations that help people to help themselves. He doesn't want to help himself to anything that is not free!

  • Alan
    March 18, 2016 - 19:59

    This kid has never worked a day in his life bit lies like it's his career.

  • This Person
    March 18, 2016 - 18:33

    Bumming/panhandling is a trend with Millennials (roughly age 18 to 35) search "bumming" you'll find hundreds of newsgroups and forums where it's quietly discussed e.g. on reddit search for bumming. The only thing they really need is free wifi if there isn't any you'll see people in that age group disappear.

  • Dave
    March 18, 2016 - 16:14

    Maybe this guy could panhandle just outside of his Dad's downtown business.

  • not trained security
    March 18, 2016 - 13:55

    The security guards who work for the mall and are not members of a independent company, committed an illegal search and detention. They also showed a level of childish spite toward someone down on his luck that is disgusting.

    • Down on his luck
      March 19, 2016 - 10:10

      Down on his luck???because he likes it....regardless you still have show some compassion.....he does have some growing up top do,living rough and his weed usage will not help....there is help if he wants it....I doubt he wants it.

    • We'll ain't you smug
      March 22, 2016 - 22:21

      I smell bull and it smells in your corner.

  • laurent Beaulieu
    March 18, 2016 - 13:21

    Strange how there is no discussion around what can be done to help the homeless on the street. Passing Trump like laws in Charlottetown against panhandling is very UnCanadian. Sad!

  • Dan
    March 18, 2016 - 12:17

    If we are to take this article at face value, it seems apparent that some in security think it's ok to perform searches as they see fit. This example from a downtown venue, if true, is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 9, the right against arbitrary detainment. Section 8 deals with the right to be secure from unreasonable search and seizure. Clearly this guard was either untrained or simply didn't care what the rules are. Regardless, there are serious consequences for violations against a charter. I also see that this same person alleges to have had a bucket of water dumped on him by security guards there. If all this is true, the whole of the security service at that mall should be terminated with cause.

  • wow
    March 18, 2016 - 12:15

    This kid has 2 parents that he goes back and forth to live with. Enough with the sympathy card. Get a job and work for your money like everyone else and stop being so lazy. His parents should've stepped in and put a stop to this, or at least raised him better

  • kathleen richardson
    March 18, 2016 - 09:32

    is he on disability for his leg? he looks fit enough. Does he not have a family? Does he claim his income and pay taxes on it? Even people that make minimum wage declare their income and pay tax. We've been coming to PEI for over 35 years in the summer and lately there have been quite a few panhandlers.

  • Resident
    March 18, 2016 - 09:07

    They are also begging for money to supply them with cigarettes and food to feed their big dogs.

  • WCB
    March 18, 2016 - 08:31

    If he broke his leg at Seafood 2000 working, shouldn't there have been some type of WCB investigation, and would he not be possibly eligible for Workers comp payments?

  • Quiet Observer
    March 18, 2016 - 08:17

    Couldn't handle boot camp ..... Then, a broken leg from working at Seafood 2000 and he is not on Workers Comp and did not get settlement from employer? What did he do to make Security Guard stop him - they do stop people randomly? Threw his resume's in garbage - I don't believe him. really look at his story's and think about them.

  • NO sympathy....time to grow up
    March 18, 2016 - 08:10

    Sorry this guy is just making excuses for his lazy ,immature lifestyle and besides we are not getting the whole story......He must have come from a home??...what was the problem there him?? or his parent or parents?? Does he have medical or mental health issues?...or has the weed and other drugs the issue...lots of questions ....there is work here not great but it is a start but you need to be disciplined take shower and have some discipline ..no sympathy here......

  • Sally
    March 18, 2016 - 08:08

    Canadians living homeless on the streets. The government flying in refugees giving them free housing and government cheques.

  • Charlottetown
    March 18, 2016 - 07:53

    A barber shop owner was on social media yesterday saying his son chooses to be a panhandler. So some of these panhandlers do have the option of having a fixed address to get on social assistance or get a job. Some choose this lifestyle. They are making their income TAX FREE. How many of us can do that?

  • The Grinch
    March 18, 2016 - 07:46

    And now, we wait for the social justice gurus to swoop in and ask that society shoulder the blame for each panhandler's sob story. Accusations of NIMBY are garden variety nonsense aimed at the assumption that anyone who doesn't appear charitable to a fault, is somehow a right wing ignoramus. Imagine for a moment that our downtown's panhandling problem isn't a case of our inability to help those in poverty. Imagine also that it's not about food or lodging, sickness or mental illness. Imagine it's about drugs, alcohol. Imagine you're paying for their vices, their tattoos. Could it be that bad? Could you have been so gullible? Yes, and you are. The street is a mess of trash and bodily fluids. People with small businesses, and even banks, have their doorways littered with aggressive beggars. Business will suffer, the gullible will try to haunt our conscience with movie-of-the-week stories of idealistic reasons people are begging, but those in the know, know. Panhandling is NOT a rite of passage of every city. It's illegal to give money to panhandlers in many cities, and the policy works. You fine those giving money to them, not the panhandlers. City council can pass any resolution it wants, albeit far too late. There's a reason panhandlers are defiant, and it's because they know that the only enforcement will come to the tune of 1 or 2 show-appearances of city police, and if things get really, really serious, it'll be in the form of an extra 2 or 3 drives by per week. Don't anyone even think that this is something that city police will get around to enforcing. Take a walk downtown now, and in 2 months' time, you'll see no change whatsoever. That's one thing the panhandlers and those who must walk among them can assure you - there is no crackdown coming, there will be NO enforcement, and only until there are incidents of violence due to pandhandling, will it be discussed again. Stop pretending this is an inevitable result of simple poverty, and put a stop to it. You can flood every one of their pockets daily, it still won't change the fact that you can't get into the bank because there's 5 of them camped there. Give to your local Red Cross, to the Upper Room, to the Salvation Army. If you choose instead to give up cash, don't come crying to us when they get pushy because you didn't pay up.

  • no thanks
    March 18, 2016 - 06:03

    just another drama queen

    • tracey
      March 18, 2016 - 13:21

      no thanks: Hope you never find yourself in such circumstances. A little bit of human kindness goes a long way. Try it sometime...