Wake Up Call for NDP Chief

Mike Steindel (CLaw7MAn@webtv.net)
Mon, 1 Mar 1999 04:24:18 -0800 (PST)


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Greater Toronto Story: Tour leaves `shaken=B4 NDP chief - =A0 March 1,
1999 
March 1, 1999 

Tour leaves `shaken=B4 NDP chief 
By Catherine Dunphy Toronto Star Feature Writer 

She came, she saw and she was appalled. 

During her 24 hours in Toronto last week, federal New Democratic Party
leader Alexa McDonough saw a filthy and dank rooming house on Sherbourne
St. where at least 25 people live and the city's emergency shelter at 60
Richmond St. where 90 sleep on mats on a concrete floor every night. 

She was ordered by a shaking homeless man to ``go and tell people we are
dying.=B4=B4 

Another demanded she look at his bandaged head. 

``This is an example of what happens when you don=B4t have food. Passed
out. Woke up with six staples in my head,=B4=B4 Mike Fiddes said to her. 

She heard about the hundreds of children living in motel rooms on
Kingston Rd., mothers starving so their children could eat, hostels
turfing out residents into freezing nights, people paying money to sleep
on the floor of wretched rooms. 

``At the present moment housing is nothing short of sadistic,=B4=B4 a
man named Nicholas told McDonough. He pays $777, or 85 per cent of his
income, on rent, he says. 

``I don=B4t smoke, drink, go to movies. I have no life. I=B4m just
circling around (various soup kitchens) like a squirrel trying to
survive.=B4=B4 

She met Sam, who had just signed and handed over his $520 welfare cheque
to his landlady the day before. The landlady gave him back $100. 

That means he pays $420 a month to share a room with a man on the first
floor next to the grimy kitchen of what was once one of Toronto's finest
homes. He shares a filthy bathroom with about 25 others. 

On the third floor, George's room is small but tidy. He has a low-slung
table for his few small possessions and a mattress, little else. His
neighbour, whom he likes to help, has a bigger room plus a television
and a chest of drawers. He used to work before he got sick, George
explains. 

Organized by the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, McDonough toured
what the group calls the ``Toronto site=B4=B4 of a national homeless
disaster. 

``I am shaken to see all the pain and misery,=B4=B4 McDonough said. 
Later, she said she understands why people are so angry with
politicians. 

``The people are saying `Do something." 
The committee has repeatedly invited all the federal party leaders to
come to Toronto to see for themselves the devastation caused by
homelessness. McDonough is the first - and only - to reply. 

``I=B4m not the person you wanted to be here tonight,=B4=B4 she told
about 60 homeless people having dinner Thursday night at All Saints
Church. ``We all have the same question: Why isn=B4t the Prime Minister
here?=B4=B4 

She later said she was ``shocked=B4=B4 when the Liberal budget ignored
the needs of the homeless. 

``The budget is a clear signal the government has no intention of
providing any relief on the social welfare front,=B4=B4 she said to a
group of front-line aid workers. 
She said the Prime Minister must see the 
``wreckage=B4=B4 for himself. But she also said she didn=B4t have any
answers. 

``I would be dishonest if I said I know how to convey this sense of
urgency. I don=B4t know,=B4=B4 she said. 


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