MONTREAL — Angel Azmeer and Kabir Awan wanted to see how Montrealers would react to a homeless 14-year-old begging on the street.
They never expected what they ended up witnessing.
“I was speechless,” says Azmeer. “Honestly.”
The two set up on Ste-Catherine Street, in the heart of downtown Montreal. Awan sat on the sidewalk, dressed in a hoodie and holding a sign. It read; “14 years old Hungry Homeless Please Help”.
Azmeer set up several meters away, filming people as they walked by.
After about an hour, Awan had collected $13.50.
The surprise, he says, came when he was approached by a real homeless man.
“He said ‘are you okay? It’s cold outside’. I’m like, yeah, I know. And he’s like ‘I’ve got something to keep you warm. And he offered me his coat.”
That man was Putulik Qumaq, a 37-year-old Inuit from Nunavut who has lived on the streets of Montreal for 17 years — and counting.
“I have friends like that,” says Qumaq. “But this boy was a boy, just a kid. That’s why I wanted to help him”.
While hundreds of people had walked by Awan without questioning why a 14-year-old boy would be panhandling, Qumaq took off his coat and put it on the teen.
The scene was captured by Azmeer, and posted to YouTube.
“People are seeing his kindness,” says Azmeer. “He’s definitely someone you want to get to know. He has a story.”
Qumaq is taking classes to become an electrician, but is still battling addiction and lives on the streets.
He has a secret place to sleep and the experience to know what he needs.
“I have to prepare thing before the night happens. Which is warm clothes, a blanket (and) meals.”
Qumaq says he stepped forward to help Awan because he was nervous the teen wouldn’t be ready to spend the night outside.
“I think it would be more difficult for him. This age, you know, maybe he’s just a beginner.”
The act of kindness has not surprised the staff at the downtown shelter where Qumaq spends most of his days.
“Often people who are on the street, really they don’t want to be there,” says David Chapman, assistant director at the Open Door Homeless Centre. “What can be difficult for the public to understand, is how people who have an addiction on the one hand, alcohol or something else, can also be the most gracious person you’d ever meet and the most generous person you’d ever meet.”
© 2016 Shaw Media