photos: Matt Cassan sells Megaphone at Seymour and Hastings in downtown Vancouver. Photo: Jackie Wong.

Matt Cassan reflects on his first season as a vendor

“If people were told regularly that they have skills and could have work and do the work properly, there would be more people off the street.”

Get on your megaphone

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“I came down to Vancouver in 2003. I’ve been here for quite a while, bouncing around. I lived on the street for two 
years before the 2010 Olympics came. It was a tough time living on the streets, going to sleep in front of someone’s doorway, getting picked up and told to go somewhere else. So I lived under a bridge by a graveyard up in North Vancouver because I was more accustomed to North Vancouver than anywhere in the city. 
I always got lost in the city—I’ve spent more time in smaller parts of B.C.

“I was in Squamish doing construction-labour-type work for 10 years before
 I came to Vancouver. I went to school
 for becoming a carpenter and a
 welder. I was trying to get my GED.

“I originally came to the coast with my parents. We moved to Whistler from Williams Lake, where I used to sell the Tribune newspaper in my trailer park.

“I liked to write in those days: sci-fi, poetry. I like mysteries and writing just about anything that comes to mind. I’d be a critic for the movies, or just a lot of fast-paced karate, kung-fu, bike stunts, and gizmos, gadgets, and scientific equations. I haven’t published that stuff anywhere. But it keeps my mind sharp.

“Another memory of Williams Lake is
 a job that I did for a long time. I used to take bales of hay and put ‘em on the back of a truck. It was an old dump truck but 
it had been converted into a flat bed. The owner used to let me drive it around, and
 I would do all the hay while he was doing business with his neighbours. I think about that job a lot. There was something about the work that felt good. I had manpower.

“After I moved to Whistler with my parents, I was working as a prep cook and dishwasher in pizza places and restaurants. I had a job all the time in all kinds of places. I still like cooking.

“But then I had some relapses. My parents kicked me out. It was touch and go. They didn’t know whether they could keep looking after me.

“I did some travelling after that. I went back to Ontario to look for my roots. Eventually I ended up in Squamish for about 10 years before coming to Vancouver.

“I used to panhandle near the Harbour Centre. Then I noticed Gord up there selling Hope in Shadows. He was making pretty good money. And Patrick has been trying to get me into selling newspapers and Hope in Shadows calendars.

“I gave it a try. I started selling Megaphone last fall. It does feel different than panhandling. Responsibility leaps up out of ya. And you know you can present the customers with change if you’re selling a newspaper. You’re not asking for anything like when you’re a panhandler.

“I like selling Megaphone because you’re giving something back. You’re always talking to people.

“I want to be known for the things that I do. With people who live on the streets, you don’t know what they have done. They probably have skills that nobody’s ever known.

“If people were told regularly that they have skills and could have work and do the work properly, there would be more people off the street.”

Matthew sells Megaphone in front of the Harbour Centre at Seymour and Hastings in downtown Vancouver, the same
corner where he used to panhandle.

Get on your megaphone

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