Street People for Apple

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

I’m a little grumpy today. I’ve had the CBC on for the past couple of hours as I’ve been doing stuff around the house, and I think I’ve had just about enough. Just about enough hype about the blasted iPhone, how it was released in Canada today, and all the rest.

The people complain – it’s too expensive. And yet they’re no doubt sold out. It’s too expensive, but we’ll sacrifice anything to have one. Hey. We’ll even sleep on the street for a night.

Now think about this for a second. We have people sleeping on the street all night, clogging up our sidewalks, and all for what? To purchase a gadget that over the course of 3 years, on a basic plan with limited voice and data capabilities is going to cost about $4000.

That’s a significant chunk of change. It’s no wonder, then, that my friend Dion Oxford, director of the Salvation Army Gateway in Toronto is concerned. Where could that money better be used? A lot of places, actually. According to Dion’s research, $4000 could also purchase

  • Close to 2000 meals in the Gateway men’s shelter for folks who live on the street

If you don’t believe that people locally need to be going hungry and that they don’t deserve your charity then:

  • It would allow you to sponsor 3 children per month for three years through World Vision
  • It could purchase 50 school kits per month through the Mennonite Central Committee, each school kit helps one child in Bangladesh get through school for one year
  • It could provide the necessary labour and materials needed to provide 10 families the clean drinking water they need for the rest of their lives, for THREE years totalling 360 familes.

This morning, the CBC was busy interviewing people who had slept on the street (in the rain!) (the martyrs!) overnight all in order to purchase this overhyped doomsday device. And yet there are so many people here in Ottawa, back in Toronto, all across this country who aren’t sleeping on the street because they’re waiting to buy the latest gadget. A good chunk of them are sleeping there because they have to.

Why is it that we celebrate those who sleep on the street in order to consume, and yet shun those who sleep on the street because they can’t afford to be anywhere else…what is wrong with us?

And yeah, I’m typing this on an iBook. And yeah, I get how cool this whole iPhone thing is. It’s pretty sexy. But seriously, maybe we should have sent the cops out last night to round up the crazies on the sidewalk. Municipal governments have been known to sweep the streets for less. For the sake of tourism. Whatever.

I just wonder what will happen if any of these people camping out last night actually end up on the streets for real. How will they remember their 30-second sound byte on the CBC, the day they bought their gleaming iPhone? What would they have to say to the media then?

Oh wait…nobody’d be listening

Andrew Stephens-Rennie on FacebookAndrew Stephens-Rennie on Twitter
Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

3 Responses to “Street People for Apple”

  1. M.joshua

    Keen observations.

  2. Why I Won’t Be Buying an iPhone | Hugh Hollowell

    […] two posts do a much better job than I ever could explaining the disconnect I feel, and why I will not be […]

  3. Adam Mort

    that’s amazing that people and or potential consumers are willing to
    jeapordize and put their safety at risk and health to purchase a piece of technology.It also makes one wonder what image
    this may portray on apple as a company, to the general public whom research
    new information on consumers and the company. We wouldn’t want people begining
    to think that apple involuntarily is promoting homelessness. That could give them
    a bad image and or impression to new perspective buyers.


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