News / Toronto

'Happy and homeless' Toronto man starts free book library

The budding collection includes titles by Dan Brown and David Baldacci, as well as DVD copies of Casino and Scent of a Woman.

Alex pores through one of the many books he has made available to the public at the Free Underpass Library, under a bridge at Lower Simcoe and Front Street.

Liz Beddall/Metro

Alex pores through one of the many books he has made available to the public at the Free Underpass Library, under a bridge at Lower Simcoe and Front Street.

One homeless man in Toronto is sharing his passion for reading with the rest of the city.

Alex, who doesn’t want his last name used, has built a free library near his makeshift bed beneath the underpass at Lower Simcoe and Front streets.

The budding collection includes titles by Dan Brown and David Baldacci, as well as DVD copies of Casino and Scent of a Woman.

“The idea is to have people pick up the book and go read it,” Alex said. If they live in the neighbourhood, they can bring it back or bring another one for other people to read.”

Alex has been on the streets for more than two decades and describes himself as “happy and homeless.” He’s got a fondness for literature and said he reads about three books a week.

He’s currently working his way through Sarah Helm’s latest, If This Is a Woman, which chronicles women’s lives in Nazi concentration camps.

After 20 years of homelessness, Alex said his book collection had become too large to fit in the shopping cart he uses to store his belongings. So, he decided to leave the books in the underpass and let others borrow them.

“I’d love books to keep circulating. It’s pretty good,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people love this idea.”

One of the perks of being an amateur librarian is that passersby are more likely to stop and chat, Alex said.

“People were just staring at me before,” he said. “I like people to stop and talk to me. It's easier when they see books and want to pick a copy.”

Alex said a few people offered to pay him for the books, but he refused.

“If you want to be ridiculous with your money, why don’t you buy me a book card instead,” he said, adding one man recently gave him a $100 Indigo card.

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