Nfld. & Labrador

'I hate it': St. John's panhandler asks for help in wake of median crackdown

A panhandler says the real problem with what he's doing is addiction, poverty, and a lack of programs to help break a vicious circle.

Panhandler in St. John's

6 years ago
Duration 5:14
Christopher says he has to panhandle to deal with his opioids addiction and to eat.

A panhandler in St.John's says asking for money each day at busy intersections isn't how he wants to spend his life, but with few skills and a drug addiction, he's trapped in a vicious circle.

"I don't want to be doing this. I hate it," Christopher, who only gave his first name, told CBC News.

Christopher said he fell into a downward spiral when he was prescribed strong pain medication after an accident, and now must continue to scrape together spare change to take the drugs.

"It's the worst monkey to have on my shoulders, 'cause it takes up my whole day having to do this. Collect just a little bit, enough money so I cannot be sick. It doesn't get me high, it just makes me not sick."

Addiction and poverty issues weren't mentioned by the City of St. John's earlier this week, when Coun. Art Puddister announced police had begun cracking down on panhandlers at busy intersections, citing it as a safety issue.

"It's no more dangerous than walking on this sidewalk," said Christopher.

Christopher wishes there were more medical and social programs out there to help change his situation. (CBC)

Programs, not police

Christopher said while he's heard of the crackdown, he has bigger concerns than the police: trying to feed his addiction, feed himself, and find a way out.

It's like the worst rut. I can't seem to see the light of day to get out of it.- Christopher

"I can't find a doctor that would be willing to help me out," he said, adding a more individualized approach to addictions would go a long way.

"The only thing that they offer is methadone, and I've been on that once before. My worst fear about that is it just sucked all the motivation out of me, whatsoever. I didn't want to get off the couch. I didn't want to do anything."

Christopher said he has no support system besides his ailing father, and no valuable job skills to be able to better himself.

"It's like the worst rut — I can't seem to see the light of day to get out of it."

Christopher said when he lived in Alberta, there were programs to help people in his situation. He said there is nothing like that in St. John's.

"If there were programs and stuff here, I would totally take advantage of it. Totally."