The Urban Hobo Jungle
by Linda C Butler
Hobo jungles were places for the homeless to gather in the 1930s and they sprang up around most major railway cities. There was little employment and men rode on freight cars without paying fares, going from city to city, looking for work and congregating in camps or jungles where they cooked and shared food. Some of the food was purchased or donated and some was stolen.
Chilliwack BC, where I live, had a large hobo jungle throughout the Depression years. My Dad, Charlie Vance, recalled being in this jungle on two occasions when he came to Chilliwack to pick cherries, however, the pay was so low picking fruit that he did not stay.
Times change and there are still homeless people in our community, but today we have soup kitchens, food banks and missions where the homeless can stay, however, it is not uncommon to be approached on the streets by panhandlers, people wanting money.
We recently had Chinese food at one of the local restaurants, and after our meal the waitress boxed up the leftovers which I took. Before we drove away a woman approached and asked if she could have our leftover food. I was speechless and she told her story that she was homeless and needed something to eat. I never give money to panhandlers, but I gave her the leftover Chinese food. The woman took the package and walked toward a group of three or four people sitting on the sidewalk in front of a nearby business where she shared the food with them.
We later laughed about this episode with the people we had dined with and someone suggested that we could go out more often for Chinese food if we followed this group’s example. Instead of ordering a flask of wine, we’d have our bottle in a paper bag and pass it around.
I thought of Dad and wondered what he’d think of this incident. I do not know whether the people really were homeless or hungry, or just innovative, but our leftovers provided an outdoor picnic for them of good dining of Chinese food.
(c) Linda C Butler 2014