: **Toronto Star: Homeless rally calls for solutions

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Sun, 03 Oct 1999 15:24:47 -0400

Toronto Star   -   October 3, 1999

Homeless rally calls for solutions

Federal attention, funding sought to relieve `disaster'

By  Catherine Dunphy Toronto Star  Staff Reporter

They came. They marched. It rained.

``Now we know what the homeless experience,'' Canadian Labour Congress
vice-president Jean-Claude Parrot told the hundreds that marched through
downtown Toronto streets yesterday demanding an end to homelessness.

More than 500 people, including dozens of organizations from Unitarians to
unions, from York University teaching assistants to Riverdale parents, walked
in a sombre, almost silent procession past the places where homeless people
live - and have died.

They started at Allan Gardens, where many homeless sleep because hostels are
overcrowded. They marched past alleyways and drop-in centres where the homeless
congregate, to the former site of the Rupert Hotel, where 10 died in a fire 10
years ago.

They ended two hours later at the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, an example of
government-funded community and non-profit housing.

``We want (Mayor) Mel (Lastman) to say loud and clear that no-o-o-o-body
should be homeless in this city or country,'' said street nurse Cathy Crowe, a
member of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, which organized the march.

She said she can't even find hostel beds for people who come to her needing

``Last night we couldn't even find a sleeping bag for a woman,'' she said.
``Now we are looking at collecting cardboard for the homeless in this city.''

The march was one of many events in seven cities across Canada this week
marking homelessness as a national disaster and demanding a national housing
strategy from Ottawa.

Almost one year ago, the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee said that
homelessness had become a national disaster.

Now there's a national network of advocates for the homeless that endorses the
committee's One Per Cent Solution calling for federal and provincial
governments to spend 1 per cent of their budgets on affordable housing.

But that doesn't include the $1.2 million funding for Toronto shelters
announced this week by Claudette Bradshaw, the federal co-ordinator for the

``We have bigger plans for this (federal) government,'' Crowe said. ``We want 1
per cent of their budget.''

But Ontario Coalition Against Poverty organizer John Clarke said the federal
government ``is determined to keep these people on the streets.''

Slamming the $1.2 million as a ``pittance,'' he called for ``massive
resistance'' on behalf of the homeless.

``There's no other way,'' he said.

Federal NDP leader Alexa McDonough said community groups have finally managed
to attract the Liberal government's attention to homelessness.

``Now we've got to get them to pay attention to the solution,'' she said during
the march. ``The 1 per cent solution is concrete, specific, and so clear. It's
looks like only a slogan, but it is the solution.''

Endorsed by 120 organizations, the march passed Seaton House, one of the
world's largest men's hostels, which is undergoing renovations, and Darlene
Cobean, who said she slept on the streets the previous night.

``I'm homeless and I'm hungry,'' she said.

Marcher Stefan Alexander lost his job in geographic information systems the
same time his marriage broke up. He had to move in with his mother.

``I'm lucky. I have a support system,'' he says. If he hadn't, he would have
lost his share of the custody of daughter Aaste, 5.

``(The homeless) are people just like me, only they didn't have the support
system,'' he said. ``The problem is there's no government support network for
these people either.''

Standing on the broken-down porch of his Sherbourne St. rooming house, Stan
Edge, 72, shouted support to the marchers. He pays $555 of his $904 pension to
rent a room.

``People don't live there, they can barely survive there,'' said Joe Kaposi, a
marcher and St. Michael's Hospital volunteer.

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"Your anger is a gift." -- Rage Against The Machine