Toronto's internal exiles: 1 in 4 homeless are Aboriginal people

Tom Boland (
Mon, 5 Apr 1999 20:06:17 -0700 (PDT)

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Can anyone from Toronto report on the Anishnawbe's Street Patrol and other
programs mentioned below?  Would you recommend similar programs in other
communities? -- Tom Boland, HPN listowner <>

FWD  Toronto Star [News Story] -  March 27, 1999


     By Catherine Dunphy - Toronto Star Feature Writer

 Joe Hester has been keeping track.

 In 1992, Anishnawbe Health Toronto's street patrol helped out 11,534
homeless people.

 In 1998, they helped out 33,841.

 That's an increase of 193 per cent and that's dramatic.

 More troubling to Hester is the fact that 25 per cent of these people are
aboriginal, although they make up only 2 per cent of the city's population.

 ``The figures get worse,'' he said yesterday at the national symposium on
homelessness during a workshop on aboriginal people without homes.

 Hester is executive director of Anishnawbe Health Toronto, a community and
culturally based health centre using traditional healing methods and
counselling circles as well as western-style health programs.

 This winter Anishnawbe, along with Council Fire shelter, has been running
the Maajaan Maan Pii, or the Come With Me patrol, to help homeless native
people get to shelters for the night. And it started the Biindged, or Come
In program, for native people suffering from addictions and others who want
to work toward getting off the street.

 ``One guy has been on the street 14 years - longer than Street Patrol has
been in existence - and we got housing for him and his partner,'' Hester

 Hester said there have been 133 deaths on Toronto streets since 1992, a
very conservative estimate, but more alarming is that a full 36 per cent of
deaths related to homelessness was among natives.

 ``Aboriginal people are dying in unacceptable numbers on the street.''

 They need housing and other long-term solutions, but they also need
agencies like Anishnawbe's Street Patrol, ``otherwise you remove the last
line of defence for people on the street,'' he said.

 He said aboriginal people must be part of any solutions for homelessness.

 ``There must be no more laid-on solutions,'' he said.

 Native Child and Family Services director Kenn Richard said the
combination of poverty and racism has been deadly to native people.

 ``It is known that children raised away from home do less well,'' he said.
``That's been the reality in Indian country since colonization.''

 Anishnawbe Health worker Jimmie Keyakundo, who was also at yesterday's
workshop, said he became a ward of the crown at age 5 and lived in foster
homes until he was 18.

 ``I grew up with the Queen as my mother,'' he said.

 ``I have a little understanding of what homelessness is.''

 It's the aboriginal people who have been in Canada the longest and who
have never left that are the ones who are increasingly finding themselves
without homes, Keyakundo said.

 He said he was moved by watching everyone ``pulling together'' during the
first day of the symposium on Thursday.


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