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Honest about being honest up to a point

June 18, 2015


How heartwarming is that story about the Vancouver Island homeless man who found $2000 on the street and then turned it in to the RCMP? That man deserves a lot more than just a pat on the back.

Coincidentally, last night, on my way to bed, I found a wallet on the street.

It contained one $5 bill and some coins but was otherwise stuffed with nothing but plastic cards, including a birth certificate, a SIN card, driver’s license, credit cards, bank cards and a Costco card — the entire “house of cards”, if you will, wherein much of a person’s standard of living dwells.

Losing all that is far worse than losing your housing as far as I’m concerned, so it’s my habit to quickly to pop any wallets or purses that I find into the closest mailbox, which, in this case, was on West Broadway Avenue at Oak Street.

Some truth in the received wisdom of homeless people


All homeless people know that wallets and stuff can be returned to their rightful owners by simply dumping them in mailboxes. We know this — or believe we do — often for no other reason than another homeless person told us so (homelessness being a sort of a hunter/gatherer culture with oral traditions passed from generation to generation).

The legal basis for this belief is contained in the Canada Post Act, which includes rules for handling undeliverable mail, such as any wallets and purses that may be found by letter carriers in mailboxes.

Section 12 of The Undeliverable and Redirected Mail Regulations directs Canada Post to open undeliverable mail and if it contains the “address of the sender or addressee in Canada” then to place it “under separate cover” and return it to the sender or addressee.

The cash will not be in the mail

Section 13, subsection (B), of the above regulations says of undeliverable mail that doesn’t contain an address: “where the mail contains cash, the cash shall be deposited to the credit of the Canada Post Corporation”.

Years ago a homeless fellow rhetorically asked me how crazy I thought that a person would have to be to leave the money for someone at Canada Post to take. He referred to keeping the money for himself  as his “handling fee” for putting a found wallet in a mailbox.

Most if not all the homeless people that I know would drop a found wallet in a mailbox and I personally know many homeless people who would never steal anything, no mater what, but I can’t say as I know a single one who wouldn’t keep the money that they found in a wallet — and I include myself in all those groups.

My attitude towards any money that I find is governed as much (if not more) by empathy as it is honesty.

I would have to be in especially dire straits not to turn in a large sum of found and traceable cash, such as thousands of dollars, which could easily be something like a rent or mortgage payment.  I couldn’t ignore the potentially ruinous consequences that the loss of that much money could have on a person’s life.

The last thing that I need is to make someone else homeless!

And I’m more — or less — inclined to return cash depending on if I can — or can’t — make sure that the money ends up in the hands of the rightful owner.

As for the wallet that I found last night, I can honestly say that I kept the cash it contained. The five dollars and change went towards buying my breakfast this morning. Click the images to enlarge them.

  1. I think the person who lost his wallet would find the handling fee to be more than fair. Your description of homeless people as a hunter/gatherer culture with oral traditions passed down the generations piqued me. You really have a gift, Stanley.


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