Holding onto his corner downtown

Published on March 18, 2016

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

©Michael Conor McCarthy/The Guardian

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.