"I started selling Vancouver’s street paper 20 years ago, when it was Spare Change. I have problems with my feet that make jobs with too much walking impossible—that made even bottle-binning tough. I’d always had a hard time getting jobs, and the pain limited my options. I hit the streets every day looking for work, and nobody would hire me. Selling the street paper let me make a living for myself and feel good about it.
Meet Sid Bristow
“I was born in Kamloops. When I was four or five, my brother Sam and I moved into a foster home about 100 miles north of Kamloops, near a place called Little Ford. We got real bush-savvy up there. We used to go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing with tiny skis. If any bears came along, my foster father would shoot them. He always kept his eye open. We got used to not having any neighbours; we got comfortable in the wild.
“When we moved into Kamloops five years later, it was culture shock. Not only because we weren’t used to the town or people, but because being in a foster home and being brown-skinned meant people looked at us differently. Everybody cared how we dressed, how we looked and all kinds of stuff that we didn’t know we were supposed to care about.
“I met my dad when I was 12, just after I moved back in with my mom. He was a bootlegger, and my mom didn’t want me talking to him. But I got a job as a paperboy, and my old man lived only three blocks away, so I delivered papers to him. That’s how I got to know him. Dad used to tip well. He was a pretty cool guy.
“I lived in Kamloops for years, and I drank a lot back then. I quit drinking about 25 years ago, though, before I came to Vancouver. I’m better off without it.
“In 1986, I got a call saying my stepdaughter in Vancouver had broken her back. She was 19 years old and three months pregnant. She was in hospital for eight months. Because she was pregnant, she kept growing, so her bones couldn’t heal properly. She needed someone to help her out, and that’s how I ended up here. Once I got here, I couldn’t see myself going back.
“I sell Megaphone about 20 hours a week now, and I’ve been at Cambie and Broadway for about three years. I can only do it for about an hour at a time, with my feet. I like selling Megaphone. It enables me to have some spending money and a job. Because I sell Megaphone, I don’t have to do other things. Selling one Megaphone is like collecting two cases of bottles in alleys, bins and garbage cans. That’s how I look at it. I use the money mostly for food, or for parts for my bike to keep it running.
“I bike a lot. It’s not so bad on my feet, and I like getting around by bike. I also like strategy games.
“I have regular customers on my corner now, and I like it there. I try to get to know them a bit, and it’s nice to recognize people and be recognized. Now that I’ve been there longer, people around there come by and say, ‘Hi, Sid’. They know who I am now, and that feels good.”
Sid sells Megaphone at the corner of Cambie and Broadway in Vancouver.