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Getting into the Christmas spirit

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It’s easy to forget there are people cold and hungry in the world when you live in Disneyland north.

In Whistler people don’t live on the streets. They don’t sleep in doorways or over subway grates and they don’t ask for money on Main Street. This isn’t the big city with the big city problems.

In Toronto, where it was -27C with the wind chill factor on Tuesday, the first cold weather warning of the season was issued.

Extra street patrols were on hand to bring anyone they could indoors and to check throughout the night on those who insisted on staying in the bitter cold.

Since the winter of 1995-1996, the city has been more diligent in its efforts to help the homeless after three men died that winter as a result of sleeping outside. But it never seems to be enough.

I remember a debate around the dinner table one Christmas. We were talking about the horrors of the homeless situation in Toronto, which seems to be getting worse every year, and one family member brought up a series of articles about homeless people that ran in a national newspaper.

In this series a reporter went undercover, posing as a homeless person for one week.

This reporter was making hundreds of dollars, panhandling.

Of course, this reporter also had the luxury of his full mental health, not to mention the indescribable luxury of being able to go home in seven days and escape the homelessness plight forever.

The controversial series of articles sparked debate, not just at our Christmas dinner table, but I’m sure at dinner tables around the country.

Some at out dinner table thought that the people standing in the subway in the weeks leading up to Christmas had hit upon the scam of the century. Hitting up sensitive souls for a Loonie here and a Twoonie there.

If I recall, I think somebody at the table actually said that if he was going to give his change away then a person should be doing something for him, like playing a tune, doing a little jig, shining his shoes.

Bah-Humbug I thought – am I actually related to these people?

Others argued that very few people would choose to make their living literally begging for money. That sometimes there simply is no other course of action when all the doors have been shut.

But I digress, homelessness and panhandling, those are big city problems. They don’t affect us here.

In Whistler, the Christmas lights are twinkling in the village, the stores and restaurants are in the festive spirit (despite the fact that we have no snow), and everything looks picture postcard perfect for the hordes of tourists that are still expected to descend around about this time.

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