This entry starts only a few hours after I got back from my last visit to the Swansea Memorial branch. I happened to be on Facebook around 8:00 that night and a friend of mine put out an urgent plea. By the time I got the message it was -20 out and felt like -30.
PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE!!
SLEEPING BAGS/WOOL SOCKS/WARM ANYTHING! ARE NEEDED AT THE ‘ALL SAINTS CHURCH’ ON THE SOUTH EAST CORNER OF DUNDAS AND SHERBOURNE!!
JUST GO!! GIVE UP YOUR CAMPING GEAR! PEOPLE ARE FREEZING!! GO ANYTIME OF DAY, PREFERABLY BEFORE MIDNIGHT. EVERYTHING YOU BRING WILL BE IMMEDIATELY SNAPPED UP. CANVAS YOUR FRIENDS, LET’S NOT LET PEOPLE FREEZE OR LOSE HOPE.
THE CHURCH IS SO HUGE THEY JUST CAN’T HEAT IT.
PLEASE PLEASE HELP!
She and her partner have been raising money from friends and using it to help the homeless from just before Christmas, and through the cold snap that hit. There’s an excellent article about the two of them here. Needless to say, I took the message seriously.
First I went in to the closet and pulled out the camping gear. Two sleeping bags and one compact sleeping mat. I hadn’t used them since 2015 and had no plans to in the near future. If I do ever need them again I can afford to buy or rent some.
Then I looked in the basket by the door where we keep our hats, mittens, and scarves. There were a bunch of extras in there: a hat, a balaclava, some gloves, a couple of scarves. A whole bunch of warm stuff we don’t need. Into a bag it went.
Then I remembered that I had a drawer full of sweaters. I looked in there. There were a couple I often wear and about four I rarely if ever do. Into the bag it went.
Finally, I reached in to the change bowl by the door where we toss all our loose change when we get home, and loaded up on money. Someone was bound to need it where we were going.
Loaded down, Sage and I headed out into the night. Not only was it bitterly cold, the wind was howling. It was the kind of cold that you can’t breathe in too deeply or you’ll start coughing. The kind of cold that makes any exposed skin start to hurt within a few seconds. Fortunately, transit was on our side. 2 minutes after we got to the bus stop, there was our bus. And then when we got to the station we waited 90 seconds for a streetcar, and 15 minutes later we were at our stop.
As soon as we got off the bus a man asked us for some change. I gave him all of the change I had packed. Then we headed in to the church.
As we walked inside, there was a man sweeping who, seeing our bags of things, asked if we happened to have any underwear. Sadly we didn’t. We walked in and donated the things we did have and headed back home. Fortunately our transit luck held out again and we weren’t out in the cold for long. This was not a night for anyone to be outside.
The next morning I woke up. I had a plan to go to another library a short distance from our neighbourhood. But then I remembered the guy asking for underwear. I wonder if I could find a library to go to that was near a Walmart where I could likely get a lot of underwear for my money. A bit of searching on Google Maps gave me my answer. I had my choice of several. I picked one that was not going to require lots of time outdoors and headed out in the early afternoon. Somehow I had forgotten to eat lunch, though. Hopefully there would be somewhere good to get food. If my previous trips were any indication the answer was that there would be.
It was still quite cold and the wind was whipping around the highrises in our neighbourhood making it feel positively bitter – as bad as it did the previous night. Not only that, my transit luck ran out. I had to wait almost 10 minutes for a bus – about 5-7 minutes more than usual. But eventually I got on and found my way there.
While the name of the library is Agincourt, the neighbourhood is in the eastern end of an area called “Tam O’Shanter – Sullivan” named after the Tam O’Shanter golf course and O’Sullivan’s Corners, a former hotel and post office in the area that opened in 1892. The most obvious landmark in the neighbourhood I could see after getting off the bus was the Agincourt Mall and No Frills Grocery Stores.
As I got closer I saw someone sitting on the ground outside of the grocery store. She was bundled up so much I could only see her eyes and she had a sign asking for money and an empty coffee cup for her change. I stopped and opened my bag – I had reloaded it with change by the door when I left and emptied most of the contents in to her cup before heading inside.
The mall itself had seen better days. Many stores were closed, others were barely having any traffic. There were only a few exceptions: the grocery store, a Chinese bakery and, of course, Wal Mart. I had hoped to find something more interesting to eat inside but there was no food court. And so I went back outside to a restaurant I saw on my way in, Congee Queen.
For those who haven’t had congee before, it’s a delicious Chinese rice porridge – the consistency of thin oatmeal. It’s usually savoury. I had a big bowl of chicken congee on my mind as I walked up to the door. And then I saw it. Though this is a huge restaurant and it was after 2PM, the line for a table literally snaked back and forth inside. There was no way I was going to get any food for at least an hour if I waited here.
So I wandered a bit more, finally settling on a Tim Horton’s where I got a chicken wrap. It was as good as you might expect from a fast food restaurant. But not to miss out on something interesting, I made my way to the Chinese bakery. I grabbed a tray and a pair of tongs at the beginning of the line and started looking. I finally settled on a “Raisin twist”, a BBQ pork bun and a cup of tea. Sadly they were all out of the “Hong Kong Style Tea/Coffee” they were advertising. This was very disappointing as I had just heard about it from Richard Ayoade on Travel Man earlier this week and was wildly curious. I wasn’t too disappointed. After all, he didn’t care much for it himself.
After that I headed over to the library which was right behind the mall.
This one was warm and welcoming. (I wonder: will I be remarking how warm and cozy libraries feel in June? I think not!) Their collection was excellent. I got a number of books, mostly on the subject of sociology, particularly relating to the impact the Internet and Social Media have on us. This included:
- Social Media is Bullshit
- Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age
- Enough: Breaking Free from the World of More
- The Internet is Not the Answer
- Kaleidoscope City: A Year in Varanasi
I also found a guidebook for Delhi and Rajasthan where we’ll be going to be spending much of next month. Now I just need to find the time to read all of these things. Maybe if I read more of the first book and a bit of the fourth one in the list I’ll find it.
I’d actually been to this library before just after it was renovated. One thing I was sad to see was that the Hindi children’s books had been packed away in storage. No more browsing for kid’s books to practice my reading. They did have lots of books for adults, though. They’re intimidating, though, with lots of words I don’t know and no pictures. Who knew I would be back at my Grade 1 book selection criteria again after all of these years? They also had a lot of other great books in other languages. Take a look!
I wandered a bit more and loaded my pack with books before heading out. On the way out I noticed a futuristic installation. Librarians no longer have to check books in at this branch. (They still do at many other ones) This automatically scans each book as it is returned and automatically checks them in and gives you a receipt.
After that it was over to Walmart. Normally I’m not a shopper there. I’d rather support small businesses and am not fond of what Walmart has done to many communities in North America. On the other hand, a lot of people needed things and I only had so much money so I grabbed a few things:
- 1 package of four each S, M, and L men’s briefs
- 1 package of six each M, L, and XL women’s underwear
- 2 packages of 20 tube socks
And then it was time to brave the cold and take the long ride downtown. But my luck was back and before long I was back on the bus and the bulk of the trip would be on the subway. I zoomed downtown, dropped the donations off and then headed back to the subway station. When I got there I was craving some coffee (I was pretty tired and had been dozing on the subway ride down there). While I was in line for a coffee, another man came up to me and asked for a quarter. When I got out my change (I still had a fair bit left), he asked for more and I gave it to him. It is interesting to note that once I started paying attention – being on the lookout for more opportunities to help they presented themselves.
Tomorrow night Sage and I will be off to visit another one!
If you’d like to read about more of Toronto’s awesome libraries and the neighbourhoods they’re in, visit the Toronto by Library page.