Day 32 - Henry

32 Henry.jpeg

Day 32 - Henry (1st person I approached)

February 01, 2014 - When I approached Henry, told him what I was doing and asked if we could talk, the first thing he said was, “Well isn’t that funny. I’ve been thinking of finding a producer. I think a lot of people want to know about people like me. They want to know how we got into binning. I think it should be called ‘Binner Man’, and it would be the story behind the guy.” (For those who may not know - a binner generally describes someone that collects bottles and cans from trash cans and dumpsters, and cashes them in.)

Henry was born in New Westminster, grew-up in Surrey, before living in Vancouver. “I used to do construction, drywall, odd jobs. You name it, I did it. There’s a lot of guys out here who had seriously skilled jobs before getting into the binning.” Henry is married, “common law” and his wife lives near Main and Hastings, “Crack Row we call it.” Henry prefers to sleep outdoors, and has a regular place that is his pitch. I ask if there’s a code or rule, that other homeless people know that that is his place to bed down, “Oh yeah” he tells me. “The guys know it’s my pitch, for sure.” 

Henry was very open to sharing his story, and while he claimed to have a short attention span, and had to stop to think about what he was saying a couple of times, he was very engaging. He tells a good story. I asked how he got into binning, and how long he’d been living on the streets. “I’ve been doing this for eight years now. Eight years homeless. I had a job, and a place and lived a routine. My wife started getting into crack cocaine, and it was through her that I had a roller-coaster ride with that. The first time we did crack together, she offered it to me. I stopped her and said ‘this can either control you, or you control it - what do you want it to be?’ She wasn’t in control. I learned a lot about myself through that. People say that drugs makes them mean, that drugs make them cheat, and lie and steal. I say the drug is a tiny little rabbit, that reveals who you are. I’m not a bad person, I’m not a thief, and I’m not a liar. I’m different than most people on crack; I was able to walk away from it. After a while.”

Henry says that he feels being a binner has saved his life. “I stay away from downtown unless I’m going to visit my wife. I have to work hard to get enough money to eat, and maybe buy some beer. I work seven days a week, usually about 12 hours a day. It’s a kind of a sanctuary for me. For a lot of the guys out doing this. I know more than a few that say this, being a binner, has saved them from death.” 

I feel that I’ve got a good connection with Henry, and I’m curious about his self-care. ‘I shave every day, I change my clothes, I do what I can to look after myself. Not all the guys do. Take Florida Pete for example. The nicest guy you could ever meet, kind, smart and funny. But I don’t think he changes his clothes more than once a month. The guy just smells awful.”  #notastranger