Fwd: LunchHour@Drop-In.Centre

Bonnie Briggs (s248_1132@hotmail.com)
Mon, 22 Dec 1997 09:46:02 PST

>   Lunch hour at All Saints Church at Dundas and Sherbourne Sts, The 
Open-Door Drop-In Centre
>  December 18, 1997  The Toronto Star  By  Jim Coyle
>                   Small acts of kindness in a cold city
>                         ` Christmas Day will always
>                         be, Just as long as we have
>                         we.'
>                            -From `The Grinch Who Stole
>                                            Christmas'
>                   FOR A LESSON in we-ness in this most
>                   me-driven of times, one could have done
>                   worse yesterday than spend lunch hour at
>                   All Saints Church at Dundas and Sherbourne
>                   Sts.
>                   Near the altar were listed hymns from a
>                   service probably long forgotten. Where
>                   once were pews, the Ontario Coalition
>                   Against Poverty offered chili and bread
>                   and a public meeting on homelessness. It
>                   was communion of a decidedly secular sort,
>                   a little food, a bit of fellowship, some
>                   respite from wandering.
>                   It was hardly Hallmark's idea of a
>                   Christmas scene. There was scratching,
>                   convulsive twitching and the muttering of
>                   those locked in tormented dialogue with
>                   themselves. There were faces fearsomely
>                   scarred, clothes badly bedraggled.
>                   But there was also an astonishing amount
>                   of laughter and apparent goodwill.
>                   Sometimes it takes those with next to
>                   nothing to know the value of sharing.
>                   Cigarettes, pop, newspapers, urban
>                   survival tips. All were passed around for
>                   the asking.
>                   At one table, three wizened souls play
>                   cards. A worker asks after the well-being
>                   of an itinerant she hasn't seen for a
>                   while. At the kitchen counter, a woman
>                   inquires of a large, bearded man asking
>                   for coffee: ``Double-double, dear?'' It's
>                   not likely he's called that very often.
>                   Regulars trade stories of the street the
>                   way yuppies trade mutual fund tips. A man
>                   recounts how he was shooed by police off
>                   his regular grate near Osgoode Hall and,
>                   annoyed, marched over to City Hall to
>                   stretch his sleeping bag out by the
>                   mayor's office. Security promptly escorted
>                   him out of there, too. But he laughs as he
>                   tells it, as if it were no more nuisance
>                   to him than slow traffic on the commute
>                   home.
>                   Perhaps it was the fine weather, perhaps
>                   the prospect of a hot meal, but there was
>                   an ecumenicism this day such that a gray
>                   pony-tailed white man in a Montreal
>                   Canadiens cap is greeted with a hug by a
>                   short black woman in a Toronto Maple Leafs
>                   version. It's a civility, evidently, that
>                   can disappear quickly.
>                   Beric German, of the coalition, has worked
>                   in Third World countries and says even
>                   starving children in refugee camps will
>                   smile at a small kindness. But they are
>                   still dying.
>                   He points out a man whose job it is in the
>                   shelter to break up fights. He says colder
>                   weather will bring more crowding, more
>                   tension, more violence. ``Where do people
>                   go, for example, when this place closes
>                   down? It closes down at 4 o'clock. There
>                   are 300 people here. Where do they go?''
>                   German urges the homeless to stay after
>                   lunch and tell their stories, ``because,
>                   if we don't talk, maybe in their minds
>                   it's not happening.'' But, by the time
>                   OCAP's John Clarke starts speaking, most
>                   have left.
>                   Clarke wants the new Toronto City Council
>                   to declare a state of emergency on
>                   homelessness. He says provincial changes
>                   to welfare and rent control legislation
>                   will make a bad situation worse this
>                   winter. He wants more space opened for
>                   shelters, an end to the razing of squats,
>                   free access for the homeless to the TTC, a
>                   use-it-or-lose it bylaw that would open
>                   empty buildings as shelters.
>                   ``If it's good enough (for Mel Lastman) to
>                   meet with Mike Harris over the question of
>                   a tax freeze, he should be scampering to
>                   meet with Harris over the question of
>                   people freezing to death on the streets of
>                   Toronto.'' Clarke has been fighting this
>                   fight for years now. He gets inspiration,
>                   he says, from seeing the powerless fight
>                   back. Not to mention a smile now and again
>                   from humour in the least likely of places.
>                   When Beric German headed out to fetch in
>                   the fixings for lunch, he had bellowed:
>                   ``Can I get a hand unloading the van?''
>                   And All Saints Church erupted in applause.
>  Contents copyright =A9 1996, 1997,  The Toronto Star
>  ..................................................
> Bob Olsen	Toronto		bobolsen@arcos.org   (:-)

Bonnie Briggs
Hi gang, 
  This was a public meeting that OCAP held last week at The Open-Door 
Centre.  I attended this meeting and was also one of the speakers. This 
will give you an idea of the fight that OCAP is involved in. It will 
also give you a chuckle at the end. Enjoy!



Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com