March for homeless `absolutely' will go on

Graeme Bacque (
Fri, 01 Oct 1999 04:42:17 -0400

October 1, 1999

March for homeless `absolutely' will go on

Latest funding for shelters not enough: Activist

By Catherine Dunphy
Toronto Star Feature Writer

Tomorrow, they'll still be marching in the heart of Toronto's
homeless district.

The $1.2 million announced yesterday by the federal
government to shelter another 360 people in new Toronto
hostels isn't going to change those plans.

``This completely misses the most crucial need in Toronto and
the rest of the country for long-term housing,'' said housing
activist Michael Shapcott, of the Toronto Disaster Relief
Committee, which is organizing tomorrow's march.

``This show is absolutely going to go on.''

The committee predicts hundreds of people from across
Toronto will turn out for the first national march and rally to
protest rampant homelessness.

Marchers will start at noon at Allan Gardens; they'll end at the
St. Lawrence neighbourhood.

One of them will be Steve Lane, 48, a former day labourer who
bounced from rooming house to rooming house before he
ended up in Seaton House hostel about 10 years ago. ``In the
(shelter) system people get damaged. It's crowded, noisy;
there's incredible tension. You're rundown, you're living in a
human logjam, you're in a crowd, you're lining up for
everything,'' he said.

People reach the breaking point. His crept up on him. In the
morning breakfast lineup at Seaton House, the man ahead of
  him turned and spat on the floor. Lane fell into a rage and
threatened the man.

``I realized I couldn't control my environment (in the hostel) and
  that if I continued (staying there), I'd end up in jail,'' he says.

So he left - to sleep outside, but also ultimately to make the
connections that enabled him to work again, find another room
in a rooming house, then, finally, a place of his own in a co-op.

``The world is a better place for me,'' he said.

To make it a better place for other homeless people, he's active
with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and the Toronto
Disaster Relief Committee. He'll be one of the people making
speeches at the end of the march tomorrow, near the St.
Lawrence co-operative housing units.

``We'll be there to say, look, here's a place where all levels of
government came together and built really nice housing,'' said
Beric German of the committee.

Public events are also planned for Vancouver, Edmonton,
Calgary, London, Ottawa and Halifax.

Parkdale community worker Bob Rose says workers at many
west-end organizations helping the homeless are ``terrified''
about what they believe lies ahead this winter.

``Food bank stocks are down, more people are hungry, already
there's fear in the shelters. We're talking about a disaster on a
lot of levels,'' he says.