I started this blog as a way to explore the sacred through photography. This photograph, taken at the southeast corner of Young and Robie Streets in Halifax, is not sacred at all. Up until a few months ago this site was home to Robie Foods, an iconic Chinese Food Restaurant, that closed after more than 50 years of providing the city with a one-of-a-kind experience.
There was a great deal of speculation and then anticipation when the decades old building was demolished and a new one started going up. It was a shock to me when I drove by shortly after Christmas and found a CASHMONEY outlet in its place! It seems like desecration.
The Northend of Halifax is in the midst of change; the beloved Hydrostone houses and market are part of the gentrification of the former working class neighbourhood and yet it is also home to Mulgrave Park, a large public housing development. It has drawn in creative individuals and businesses that come to be part of the artsy atmosphere and provide something other than the cookie cutter streetscape of so many of our cities. It is a place of diversity in race, origin, economic and marital status. There an increasing number of young families who want to be close to city amenities. New immigrants find a home here. It is a place where neighbours look after neighbours.
And yet here is CASHMONEY, a place that preys on those who are economically disadvantaged, who have no savings or access to ordinary credit, whose only recourse when they find themselves with a financial emergency is to turn to this kind of outlet. In large, eye-catching signs, ‘Payday Loans’ are advertised. $300 for $20, NO CREDIT CHECK! I went to their website to find out just how much a loan would cost. Provincial regulations obviously state that they have to say that Payday Loans are high cost loans, otherwise why would they? A $300 loan for 14 days, costs the borrower $66. Which works out to be an annual percentage rate (APR) of $573.57%! This is legalized loan sharking.
I am comfortably middle-class now, but I wasn’t always. There was a time when something as small as needing a new headlight for my car strained an already tight budget. When you live close to the edge economically, it doesn’t take much to tip you over. I was lucky, I had family I could go to for short-term loans.
And so places like CASHMONEY offend me. They offend me because they can draw a person into ever increasing loans with little way to get out. They offend me because they seek an exorbitant profit on the backs of the poor. They offend me because as a follower of Jesus, I am called to help create a world that is better for all of us, not just some of us.
My window on God’s world is cloudy tonight.