Homeless man's tale silences Toronto health board FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 13 Nov 1998 05:09:55 -0400

FWD  Toronto Star - November 11, 1998


Health board sits silent at man's desperate tale

By Catherine Dunphy
Toronto Star Feature Writer



Dennis Flarity and his wife Violet Abigosis take
shelter in their blanket-covered alcove in a
laneway near Queen and Bathurst Sts. where they
have been living for two years.

Some of the homeless were too scared to even show
up. Not Dennis Flarity.

He was the second speaker yesterday afternoon in
Metro Hall's large, low-lit Committee Room.
He lowered his long legs easily into the chair at
one end of the vast board table, leaned into the
microphone and told the politicians and the
bureaucrats at Toronto's board of health meeting
on the homeless about his life.

``My wife and I live in a doorway in a laneway.
Have for two years. Last winter my wife got
pneumonia four times. We went to St. Mike, there
was no bed. They sent her to a women's shelter and
she came home after four days.

At the other end of the table, committee chair and
Councillor John Filion (North York Centre), looks
up. Flarity meets his eyes. Councillor Irene Jones
(Lakeshore-Queensway) reddens and looks down.

For the first time all afternoon, the room is
completely silent.

``We use the Queen St. Centre but we have no
access to any kind of health care.

``I lost an eye because of living on the street, I
had a jaw broken because of living on the street,
I lost a quarter of my stomach because of living
on the street.


He says 10 of his friends have died, and too many
more are dying from living outside. He says they
all should be able to get more health care, even
if it's just for pneumonia.

His voice has been clear and strong, it slips a
little here. It's clear his wife's health is a
worry to him.

He tells the board they have the power to do
something. All he and his friends can do is talk
and hope they are heard. He's one of the few
people there who doesn't sound angry, but his
voice grows louder as he ends.

``I'm pleading with you. Don't sit there and talk
about it, he says. ``Please. Do something.

>From the chairs at the back of the room comes a
sharp burst of applause. His friends. A tall,
erect woman who has rested motionless against the
back wall breaks into a lovely, wide smile. Violet
Abigosis is proud of her husband.

Outside the meeting room she explains that they
have five or six blankets over the doorway and
they all help somewhat to keep out the chill.
Nevertheless, she already has a cold. ``I'll have
it all winter, she says, smiling.


She and Flarity have lived on the streets for four
or five years, ever since he was evicted from his
men-only hotel room because she was there with

She dreams of having a place of their own someday.
``It would be so great to be able to kick back and
relax in a chair in my own room. And cook my own

Until then, home is the doorway in the laneway
near Bathurst and Queen Sts. She tightens her
shoulders and opens up her umbrella as she and
Flarity leave Metro Hall and head out into the
dark, late afternoon rain.

[Contents copyright 1996-1998, The Toronto Star.]


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