A Christmas … Dirge? “Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat;

Please put at penny in the old man’s hat… ” 

By Amanda Tower

Jay sits outside the front entrance of the local grocery store, strumming his guitar and singing Golden Oldies and Stan Rogers’ hits.  Even if one has nothing to offer him, he’ll kindly load groceries into a waiting taxi cab. Help an elderly couple down the street.  Watch someone’s dog while its owner is shopping. He loves to read, anything and everything: when he’s not strummin’, he’s flippin’ pages.

Jay is fully aware of the dangers of the streets. He is familiar with all the homeless. One thing he’s not doing is sleeping. With shelters few and far between, and mainly full; sleeping rough is the name of the game. And rough it is, on the streets of Toronto.

The number of homeless in Toronto alone is staggering. The 2013 Street Needs Assessment, to be followed up in 2018, estimated that the number of homeless sleeping

Outdoors or in shelters, or in health and correctional facilities, in Toronto, was 5,253. In April of that same year, it was established that 447 people were sleeping rough in T.O. 65% of all homeless in T.O. are men. 85% of these sleep outdoors. 7% had a relationship with the Canadian military. 29% are 51 yrs. and older.

An enormous percentage of Toronto homeless falls into the following categories: aboriginal, youth, LGBTQ2S, veterans, refugees.

The 2016 Canadian federal budget committed $2.3 billion over two years in affordable housing through several different channels, particularly by reinvesting in the Homeless Partnering Society (HPS). Amongst other housing initiatives is a mandate to build new and repair existing shelters for victims of abuse.

In May of 2017, a sobering statistic shown 4, 812 men, women and children were using emergency shelters on an average night.

Help the homeless

Here are several manners in which to do so:

  • Shopping centres, hospitals and shelters will accept new, unwrapped gifts for children.
  • Soup kitchens, shelters, and grocery stores have food banks where one can donate tinned or dried goods (check the expiry date!), along with a variety of small household items.
  • Scott Mission offers a pick-up service: clothing, housewares, new or gently used toys, food… all is welcome. Book a time that is convenient for you and a truck will come to your door to collect any donations. (416)923-8872

AFTER HOURS: Assaulted Woman’s Helpline (416)863-0511

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