homeless toronto

This Toronto man sells bracelets and he's homeless

People who frequent the corner of Simcoe and Richmond or the Tim Hortons near it have probably met Tyme. He always has a big smile and greets people with a “Good Morning” “Hello” or “Have a nice day.”  

A friendly and outgoing man, Tyme seems eager to talk to anybody who cares to listen. I recently sat down with him and asked him if he would like to share his story.

Tyme grew up in Sault Ste. Marie back when it would be unrecognizable to us now. The Sault, as he fondly calls it, was a bustling city full of opportunities.

Tyme worked in various jobs from construction to the steel mill, which, at that time, was a ticket to the coveted white-picket-fence lifestyle. At one point, Tyme even had his own business doing roofing, siding, and landscaping. 

After work he would go out with friends, or relax with the TV at home. He enjoyed watching SNL. Occasionally he would go across the border to Michigan for dinner.  

In 1976, the unions moved into Sault Ste. Marie for the first time. Tyme says the city was "never the same after that.”

With the unions moving in, things changed overnight. Jobs became contracts, salaries increased, and companies could not afford to pay employees.  People were working from contract to contract, and it was getting harder to line up your next gig.  

Never one to let change deter him, Tyme moved out of the Sault and worked odd jobs, including moving furniture across Canada.  He moved back to the Sault to give it another go and worked in a lumber mill for more than four years (one of his favourite jobs).

Life was dealing him a good hand until he suffered a severe back injury. He was lifting a log and his vertebrae split in two. He beat the odds and was not paralyzed; months of rehab saw him walking again, but a career change was needed.

Not one to give up, Tyme moved to Welland where he worked in a tube mill. However, luck was not on his side. The contract ended, and he was forced to move again, this time to London.

After losing his wallet with all his money (about $500), he had to receive welfare for the first time in his life.

Jobs in London were hard to come by as he was now older and companies preferred younger, faster, stronger, workers who had grown up in London over "outsiders." 

Not wanting to be an outsider anymore, Tyme finally decided to move to Toronto where he had a close personal connection. He was staying near Queen and Sherbourne and jobs were easy to come by.  People would drive up and offer labour related jobs to anyone who wanted one.

Money was flowing at a steady rate and Tyme was saving up to get a room. But when Personal Labour moved to the corner, Tyme said it felt like "Déjà Vu."

The company "monopolized the jobs," and people had to go through the agency for a job. "Workers were getting paid much less than before and not in cash." 

Tyme was back on welfare.

By now, he was in his early 60s, and his life experiences were showing in his face. He was cut off from welfare after two months for  "not trying hard enough."

Tyme felt that he was not respected as a senior citizen, and this was very offensive to him.

But God, he says, was looking out for him and led him to someone who makes bracelets.  These gemstone bracelets are one-of-a-kind and said to be blessed to protect the person wearing them from evil, and give them good health.  Tyme says he dreams of opening up a small stand to sell his bracelets and to save enough for a tiny room.

If you ask him what the most important thing someone can do for him is, his first answer is not money – it’s attention. Just for someone to stop and say: “Hello, how are you? I understand you’re trying.”

He understands that not everyone is in the position to give money, and because of his hardships he appreciates it more than words when someone offers him a dollar. 

Tyme’s bracelets are his way of starting a new life. The bracelets are $25 for a small one or $30 for a larger one.

To give perspective on what this does for him: he buys 5 shirts for $10; a small meal three times a day between $3 and $5; as he saves up to get a little place some day and grow his bracelet business.

Lead photo by

Lynn D'Souza. Writing by Lynn D'Souza.

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