Toronto homeless memorial, march on Tory headquarters: reports?

Tom Boland (
Sat, 8 May 1999 11:11:42 -0700 (PDT)

Can Ontario Coalition Against Poverty activists email <HPN@ASPIN.ASU.EDU>
with eye-witness accounts and analysis on the Toronto actions reported

Did the Toronto Star portray the actions, issues and stakes accurately?

Thanks. -- Tom in Boston
FWD  Toronto Star - May 7, 1999


     400 gather at memorial to grieve for friends

     By Catherine Dunphy - Toronto Star Staff Reporter

[Photo by Boris Spremo, CM] Sister Susan Moran writes the name of a dead
homeless friend on a cardboard coffin at Nathan Phillips Square symbolizing
those who have died on city streets. About half the 400 people at the
memorial yesterday then marched to the Tories' campaign headquarters.

 The homeless don't forget. They can't.

 ``I don't know why I'm not dead yet, too,'' says a woman, 28, whose street
name is Apple.

 Between her emotions and the beer she has consumed, it's a struggle for
her to print the name of a dead friend on the white cotton sheet covering a
cardboard coffin. Her friend died last week.

 This is the seventh time in eight years the homeless have held a public
memorial ceremony for their friends who've died on the street. Yesterday,
about 400 people came to Nathan Phillips Square at noon to remember and

 About half of them later marched with the symbolic casket to the campaign
headquarters of the provincial Progressive Conservative party.

 Among the names on the sheet were those of Drina Joubert and Edmond Yu.
Her freezing death in 1985 and his shooting death by police in 1997 each
launched ground-breaking inquiries.

 Apple's friend jumped to her death in front of a subway last Thursday.

 ``She was this good kid, in her 20s, who used to call me Dad,'' said
Apple's friend Martin Lang, a volunteer at the drop-in centre at 519 Church
St. for 19 years.

 Lester Pawis, 60, also died last Thursday. A familiar figure for years at
Bathurst and Queen Sts., his death shook the street people.

 ``He was an icon, a beautiful man,'' said Cathy Crowe, a community nurse
who was with him when he died in a hospital intensive-care ward.

 There's already an impromptu shrine to Pawis at his favourite corner.
There will be a service at Council Fire on Dundas St. E. for the woman who
jumped in front of the subway.

 ``It's too painful. I've been going to memorials and funerals once a month
for four years now,'' said Michael Crawford, a former homeless person who
now works out of the Queen St. W. community health centre.

 He told the crowd to tell Premier Mike Harris they're sick of so many
homeless people dying.

 ``Wally, Al, Kat, Lee-Anne, Patrick, Lester - their deaths were all caused
by one thing: government policy,'' he said.

 Former psychiatric patient A. J. Rhomer said police told her and her
panning partner to stop sleeping in the doorway of an unused building on
Bloor St. near Bathurst because it upset the neighbours.

 ``The police told us to go to a park, where people can't see us,'' she
said. ``I say we have got to start sleeping in visible areas so people can
see us and know we are homeless.''

 Rhomer, who's been on the street since she was evicted from her apartment
in March, said she used to walk Yonge St. from Davenport Rd. to Finch Ave.
and back when she was homeless in the winter of 1994-'95. ``That's what
kept me alive. Only when you lie down does hypothermia come.''


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