Jack Manson is a pleasant 70-year-old man who occasionally sits with his cap out in front of the Starbucks in Kerrisdale on 41st Ave. We don’t have many street people in Kerrisdale, Jack occupies the space in front of Starbucks on a vaguely rotating basis with two other panhandlers. I have never seen more than one along 41st at a time.
Jack does not ask for money or approach passersby. Instead, he sets a small sign on the ground next to his cap that says he is 70 years old and having a hard time.
He was willing to talk to me and to be photographed, although he did ask that his picture not be put in the newspaper because his mom is still alive and he did not want her or his children to recognize him in a picture. He does not object to his picture being displayed in an art gallery or a book.
Jack says he has 10 children and 17 grandchildren, mostly on Vancouver Island. He used to work for Burrard Shipyards but was laid off a number years back. He was born at Vancouver General Hospital and was raised in Vancouver. He says his dad was Chief of the Vancouver Fire Department for 44 years. Jack was married twice at the same church.
Jack receives old age pension, so he only begs when he needs to. He used to live in a downtown hotel, but the $650 rent didn’t leave much money for anything else. That is when he turned to begging to supplement his income. Recently, his life has improved because he is now in subsidized B.C. Housing, so he doesn’t need as much extra as when he lived at the hotel. He said he had a hard time moving, because he has 5 big boxes, mostly filled with books.
He says he has spent lots of time in bars during his life, but he isn’t an alcoholic or a drug addict. He seemed bright and articulate.
We had fun meeting Jack. I was with my 13 year old daughter and her friend who had spent the day at a musical theatre program. Both girls have beautiful voices and big smiles and they started singing for Jack. While they were singing a few rounds of “Singing in the Rain”, lots of money was dropped in Jacks hat, including a $20 bill from one woman. The girls decided they would busk for street people more often—it cheered Jack up and resulted in lots of income for him. Jack said he would like to record the singing.