this province is in crisis!

Bonnie Briggs (
Wed, 25 Nov 1998 06:41:04 PST

Drums in the park
Hi gang,
  Here is a copy of a letter I'm sending to the learders of the two 
provincial opposition parties in Ontario. I'm hand-delivering them 
because their e-mail addresses are no good. They must be made aware of 
the magnitude of the problem.  I'm hoping they'll respond to my letter. 
  My name is Bonnie Briggs. I am a welfare recipient, a former homeless 
person, a Parkdale resident, an Honours college graduate, and a homeless 
activist in Toronto. I am also a victim of the Mike Harris "Common Sense 
Revolution." One of thousands. I live in a second-floor walk-up in 
Parkdale. I pay $550.00/month in rent. I get $520.00/month on my cheque. 
Yes, that means that I spend my whole cheque on rent. I also have to 
come up with money to pay the Hydro. I am basically living on nothing. 
My husband is in similar situation.(We are separated. You may be getting 
a post from him too.) He lives in a basement apartment in the north end 
of the city. I'm not sure what he pays in rent, but up until last 
Sunday, he was living on about $60.00/month after he paid his rent. He 
has just been given a rent increase. He will now have less than 
$40.00/month to live on. I eat from the food bank. I am lucky enough to 
belong to a group in Regent Park that has a food bank every week for the 
people in the group. I share my food with my husband because he doesn't 
have as much access to food banks. He often has to walk long distances 
to get to a food bank in his area. He has not been eating well. I 
believe he is suffering from malnutrition because of his poor diet. He 
has no bus fare to get around. I am lucky enough to have a Metropass 
that is paid for by Welfare. This is because we are both involved in a 
program with Mothers Against Poverty(MAP). We want to start a small 
business doing web pages for people and teaching them to do it 
themselves. We are waiting to start school to get the training we need 
to start our business. I am also trying to publish a book of Social 
Justice poems called Poems From Street Level. They can be viewed at the 
web page listed below. So, we are not sitting around doing nothing. We 
are trying to improve ourselves and get ourselves off Welfare. Now, I 
have to fight Welfare again because they are giving me a hard time about 
my rent. I think they are going to try to force me to move. I can't 
move. 1. There's nothing out there. 2. I can't afford to move. 3. You 
can't even get a room with what Welfare gives you. 4. With winter coming 
and with us trying to get into our course, this is not the time to move. 
  But enough about us, I'm sure you've heard about homelessness being 
declared a national disaster. This a crisis! It is directly due to Mike 
Harris and his "Non-Sense Revolution." Because of the welfare cuts, 
there are now thousands of people on the cold streets of Toronto with 
another 80,000 people,(about 4% of Toronto's population),  at risk of 
becoming homeless. There are an estimated 200,000 people homeless in 
Canada.  The hostels were full back in October, before the cold weather 
hit. Since then, the numbers of people needing shelter has increased 
dramatically. It is estimated that Toronto will be short about 760 
hostel  beds a night. That means those people will have to sleep 
outside. Homelessness is also a serious health hazard. TB is on the 
rise. There is a 38% infection rate. Infectious diseases spread fast in 
the cramped quarters of a hostel. Detox facilities have no space. There 
is also hunger, malnutrition, and vitamin deficiencies. Homeless people 
also suffer deprivation of the human spirit, depression, lost 
opportunities and hope. This past winter and spring, there were 
lice/scabies infections of record proportions. This was directly related 
to crowded shelters and the forced migration between shelters. 40% of 
Toronto's homeless population do not have Health cards and so cannot 
access health care. All of this puts more strain on an already 
over-burdened health care system. In the midst of this health care 
crisis, Harris is closing hospitals! Go figure! People are dying! They 
are dying, on the streets, at a rate of two a week. They were even dying 
back when it was still warm. If you go to my Homeless Memorial website, 
you will see a partial list of the people who have died on the street. 
Is it "common sense" that a 74-year-old man should stay in a shelter? Is 
it "common sense" that aboriginal people are offered shelter space or 
housing that meets their cultural needs? Is it "common sense" that the 
detox beds are full by noon and people needing that service are left on 
the sidewalk? Is it "common sense" that a man suffering with HIV and 
Aids has to stay in a shelter? Is it "common sense" to jail people 
simply because they are poor? NO!!! Canada is a signatory to the 
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. This 
guarantees that everyone has a right to "an adequate standard of 
living...including adequate food, clothing, and housing." Harris has 
violated this Covenant, big time! Harris has created a disaster in this 
province and must be stopped! Oh to have recall. Please guys, do what 
you can to stop this man. He cannot, he must not be re-elected! If that 
happens next spring, there will be an armed revolution in this province, 
if not the entire country. That's not a threat, it's a prediction. I 
also predict more suicides if Harris gets back in. If either of you guys 
wins the next election, the first thing you have to do is restore the 
21.6% cut in the welfare rates. The next thing you must do is restore 
public housing. We are involved in a fight in Toronto to get the empty 
buildings opened up. It is a scandal! Buildings sitting empty while 
people die on the streets. The homeless are dying, welfare people are 
being evicted. This province is slowly being destroyed. Something must 
be done now, so that people like me are not made homeless. If I become 
homeless again, I'll be alone, without my husband and I fear I will not 
  Well, I think that's enough. You will probably hear from my husband as 
well. Please respond. Please bring this up in the House of Commons and 
Question Period. Down with the Harris Government! 
Bonnie Briggs    poetry page    Homeless Memorial

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