Out of sight, out of mind

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Mon, 18 Oct 1999 05:04:29 -0400


October 18, 1999 The Toronto Star

Out of sight, out of mind
Danny's struggle to find his own place

By Catherine Dunphy

When he talks, he gesticulates. When he gesticulates, he apologizes,
automatically.

Danny Antonioni, 40, does get under people's skins. He's of limited
intelligence; he can't remember the most basic of instructions; he asks the
same questions again and again.

He can be loud, aggressive, obnoxious - but also childlike, trusting and
given to bearhugging the people at Street Health and the Ontario Coalition
Against Poverty, who are working hard to help him.

He's been living on the street for almost five years.

When he can, he sleeps in the stairwell of a Gerrard St. clinic near Allan
Gardens. But the security guards usually roust him out. The nights are cold
and he's sick and discouraged.

``I've gotta get a place, I've got to get out of this mess,'' he says.

Sometimes he cries fitfully for hours - but he won't stay in hostels because
other street people pick on him, regularly beat him up and steal his stuff.
``There's no way he can function on his own,'' says Sarah Vance of the
coalition, where Antonioni goes daily.

He needed help from Street Health worker Maurice Adongo to pick up his $195
monthly welfare cheque recently.

Nevertheless, last month the community and social services ministry turned
down his application for disability benefits under the Ontario Disability
Support Program Act.
Their letter stated: ``The direct and cumulative effect of your impairment
on your ability to attend to your personal care, function in the community
and function in the workplace does not result in a substantial restriction
in one or more of these activities of daily living.''

The letter also said Antonioni didn't have a substantial physical or mental
impairment, even though Antonioni had received disability payments under
previous guidelines.
The coalition wants the decision overturned; Adongo is asking for a review
of the case.

``I was shocked when Danny was turned down,'' he says. ``This guy doesn't
belong on the streets.''

Dan Miles, press secretary to Community and Social Services Minister John
Baird, refused any comment on Antonioni's case saying it is government
policy not to discuss individual cases.

He also had no comment about the fact Antonioni had been receiving
disability payments under the family benefits program but was cut off while
serving a seven-month jail sentence (he was convicted of causing a public
nuisance this year).

``I've been on the streets four years and 10 months,'' says Antonioni. But
he keeps trying to find a place to live. ``I've got to, I've got to,'' he
says.

It's hard for him to comprehend he needs to qualify for a disability pension
to have enough money to afford to pay rent. Vance says he's made in-person
visits to hundreds of landlords with rooms for rent.

``But they never rent to him when they see him,'' she says.