TikToker Gives Tims Cards To People On The Streets In Ottawa & It’s So Heartwarming

One Ottawa
TikToker is paying it forward by giving out Tim Hortons cards to people on the streets, and it’s creating an unlikely community hub near Rideau Street’s Zesty Market.

A shirtless Ottawa man, nicknamed “Slim Shady,” hunches over in a downtown bus shelter. His gaze is fixed on the ground. “Slim Shady, look!” calls out a voice. As Slim pulls shoes on his bare feet, the voice says, “Here’s a sandwich for you.”

The scene plays out in a TikTok video from June 4, which gained over 2 million views by the third week of June. “It’s Saturday again. We all need breakfast it’s a must,” reads the video text. Slim Shady smiles and fist bumps a man who gives him a Tim Hortons sandwich.

Slim then visits a nearby convenience store, where TikToker gangsterapu gives him a Tim Hortons gift card. “I forgot a Timmy card even though you got a sandwich,” gangsterapu says.


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An unlikely community hub at Rideau Street Zesty Market

The Zesty Market, at the corner of Rideau and William Streets, has become somewhat of a community hub thanks to gangsterapu’s TikTok videos. It’s where Tim Hortons gift cards, clothes, toothpaste, and other essentials are given and donated to Ottawa’s most vulnerable.

“You know, sometimes you get stuck in that grunt of thinking you’re the only one with problems,” gangsterapu tells Narcity.

The man behind the account, 36-year-old Segetlab Haile, started making the videos in October of last year shortly after he landed a job at the convenience store. Now, he has 72,000 followers with over one million likes. “Protecting the rise,” is a slogan he uses to describe appreciating and protecting what you have right now.

Some TikTok users have criticized the videos, saying that people who are having difficulties shouldn’t be filmed. “Don’t film people struggling and post for your benefit,” said one user. In contrast, another user said, “That’s someone’s son 🥺♥️thank you for showing him love.”

But Haile says he sees the people in his videos every day. He says he aims to give voices to Ottawa’s most vulnerable, people who cope with homelessness or addictions. He says he relates. In high school, Haile’s identity centred around sports. Then, an injury to his leg led to nearly two decades of disability.

“I have the same disability as them,” Haile says. “Why don’t we just show that? You know, the struggle helps the struggle, because, literally, they’re the only ones that asked me about my leg and things like that.”

Understanding “the struggle” underpins Haile’s donations, whose Ethiopian family is caught in the Tigray War. He hasn’t spoken to some of them in 21 months and doesn’t know much about their well-being. The Tigray War is a civil war in northern Ethiopia, which broke out in 2020 and is associated with numerous war crimes.


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Giving back has ups and downs, but inspires others

Haile says that it can be difficult to watch people struggle so openly, especially when he doesn’t have the resources to give people the kind of help they might need, like detox resources or other long-term supports. “Some of them don’t even do drugs,” Haile says. “This is the weird part, you know, it just makes me wonder like, ‘Buddy, like, where—where did it all go backwards.'”

And it’s not always perfect, either. Haile says he knows people may sell the clothes he gives. Other times people steal from the Zesty Market. Still, he says essentials are still needed “’cause it’s rough out here.”

But people have given back too. Some people have helped him with carpeting and painting his apartment. “Every single person was either homeless or in recovery, so they’re paying it forward also.”


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Some folks from other cities have contributed to the cause, donating bags of food, clothing, and money. In one video, a young man can be seen giving Haile apple sauce and Wagon Wheels.
In another video, a basketball coach dropped off some supplies at the store. Haile says he travelled all the way from Sudbury, Ontario to give back.

And Haile has been an advocate for people’s recovery. He’s sat with people in hospital rooms looking for detox beds. He’s fought for people to get spots at the Salvation Army’s Anchorage Residential Treatment Program.

According to Haile, the videos have even inspired some people, including one teenage girl, to go to rehab. “We had one that was 13, believe it or not, and she found me on Instagram. She’s like, ‘I took your advice—I’m in rehab.'”

He doesn’t plan to stop soon but now will offer his own reading group. “I own like four or 500 books. So, I’m just gonna bring the books here and whoever wants to read or wants to sit down and talk about things, you know, we could do it. Nothing medical, you know, it’s just a drop in the community.”

And for the donations? In a
video posted on June 21, Haile encouraged people to message him and participate in giving donations directly.

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