Tales Of A Toronto That Most Will Never Know

August 22, 2018

A homeless man in his 70s is seen wandering the streets in flip flops. It's early October. It's wet. He's cold.

 

And if he's like other elder men who are homeless, he'll walk 15 kilometres today to access support and services. And 15 tomorrow. And 15 yesterday. Probably explains the bandages and blisters all over his feet.

 

“I’ve got three pieces of mail!” he exclaimed. George, an elder homeless man in his 80s, just got out of the hospital. He had been a patient for almost 3 weeks dealing with the after effects of a dog bite from a year ago.

After being discharged, George came back to Haven Toronto. When he saw he had mail, he was saw that someone was thinking of him. 

 

It has been a while since we last saw Rupert. He’s been ill. During a recent visit, Rupert, wheelchair bound, was thinner and listless. News came that Rupert passed away two weeks ago. Another homeless death.

 

Some of the guys were beginning to wonder what happened? Few asked. Maybe it was out of a fear of the known, that the lifespan of a man who is homeless in Canada is decades shorter than that of a man who is housed. Life, as you know it, quickly ends with homelessness.

 

Our client wanted to help. He introduced the man to Haven Toronto and, from our emergency clothing room, helped the man get clean, dry clothes that actually fit.

 

Most of our clients learn about us from other clients. They have learned to help each other and survive together.

 

Grant Faulkner was 49 when he died after his plywood shelter behind a Toronto business caught fire.

Faulkner, a father of three girls who became homeless after losing his job at an automotive parts manufacturer, projected a cheery persona to outreach workers and friends – all the while struggling to find a home and stable employment.

We should all be shocked and appalled that this happened to Grant. Not just that he died this way but in the way he was living, which contributed to the way he died.

 

A man in his 60s came in and asked if we remember him, and we did. He said he hasn’t been around in a while because he got a job, found an apartment and is back on his feet.

 

He's proof... you're never too old for dreams to come true, even if your dream is just a roof over your head.

 

George is a homeless man in his 70s and a client. He often donates cash to Haven Toronto, anywhere from $50 to $100, from money earned cutting grass and shoveling snow.

 

 

A healthy, nutritious meal at Haven Toronto is one dollar. Larry, a client, will often pay with a fiver and buy lunch for the next few guys in line.

 

 

Both George and Larry see the people at Haven Toronto as family. Going from setback to paying it forward, people with less often give more. It’s all relative.

 

Today a client gives a big smile, he’s happy. He was lent an extra large colourful beach towel for his shower instead of a boring white one. It’s the little things...

 

 

Turning 60 this year, Gary makes his way around in an electric wheelchair. He fell from a ladder and wrecked his leg more than 10 years ago and can’t work anymore.

 

Known as Pops to his friends in the homeless community, he sleeps under the stars − no tent, no tarp.

Early one afternoon, a homeless man can be seen sleeping on a concrete ping pong table in the heart of a Toronto park. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is out. The ground is dry. At first glance, you might ask yourself, “Why is he not sleeping on the grass?” It's so much softer.


Maybe the man has slept on hard surfaces so often and for so long that now he can’t sleep on anything but. But you wouldn't understand, if you’ve never been homeless.

 

It’s nice running into old friends. Elliott is an old friend. He is also a client. We just haven’t seen him for two or three months. Needless to say, when he dropped in the other day, we were very happy, and sad.

 

Since we last saw Elliott, he has been diagnosed with cancer - a tumor in his neck the size of a tennis ball. How quickly life changes.

 

A homeless man sits down at our reception desk and takes off his hat and sunglasses. The man, in his 80's, has two black eyes. He wants to join Haven Toronto. He wants to be part of our community. He wants to feel safe.

 

Sure, the sunglasses can hide his shiners but not the vulnerability that comes with being elder and homeless.

 

Barry is homeless. He used to rent a room in the basement of a building. Actually, he lived in the boiler room. Barry shared his accommodations... with mice that used to enter thru holes in the floor. It could be worse. They say if you have mice, it means you don’t have rats.

 

Roger is a client of Haven Toronto. He has been homeless for years. Recently, Roger found out that he has a son who is in his now 30's. The father and son met for the first time ever in the lobby of Haven Toronto.

 

Television has a history of parodying homelessness. Getting laughs at the expense of those less fortunate. Making fun of one of the most vulnerable groups. Like stereotyping people living in a storage locker. Some of the homeless in Toronto would call that reality TV.

 

Grant Faulkner was 49 when he died after his plywood shelter behind a Scarborough business caught fire. Faulkner, a father of three girls who became homeless after losing his job at an automotive parts manufacturer, projected a cheery persona to outreach workers and friends – all the while struggling to find a home and stable employment.

 

We should all be shocked and appalled that this happened to Grant. Not just that he died this way but in the way he was living, which contributed to the way he died.

 

A client of Haven Toronto, who was in his 70’s, was evicted from Toronto Community Housing. Never before homeless, he went to a local shelter where, on his first night, he was stabbed and almost succumbed to his serious injuries.

 

‪After treating himself to a meal out, a homeless man - a client of Haven Toronto - paused outside the diner to take in the beautiful morning. That's when a stranger threw a scalding coffee in his face and made a derogatory comment about the homeless.

 

It is not uncommon to find people who are homeless living in tents under bridges and in bushes alongside busy city streets. It's here where you can also find them dying. Last Saturday, in response to a tent fire under one such bridge, firefighters took a homeless man in his 50's to the trauma centre. So severe were their burns that the Fire Marshal had to be notified.

 

Fab lives in a shelter only fifteen minutes from Haven Toronto. As with many clients who are homeless, you can go weeks or months without seeing them. Fab was no different. Running into him outside a coffee shop, Fab was encouraged to visit the drop-in centre more often.

 

Later that day, when he returned for the first time in months, he visited with Wayne, our housing worker. The next day, Fab was able to leave shelter life behind after Wayne found him a place to call home.

 

Mario lived in a rooming house. That’s where the fire started. It was contained and no serious injuries were reported. Mario returned home after the fire but the landlord had other plans. Evicted and now homeless in his 80s, Mario was burned twice by the fire.

 

Eddie used to work in construction. You could see him looking down on the growing city from scaffolding high above. Then came a fall and a serious injury that would mean never working again. Followed by an addiction to painkillers. Now homeless, there are days it feels like the city is looking down on Eddie.

 

A homeless person took shelter along the 510 Spadina. Death arrived early that night. Turns out that the transit shelter wasn’t the kind of shelter they needed.

 

A client of Haven Toronto, who was in his 70’s, was evicted from Toronto Community Housing. Never before homeless, he went to a local shelter where, on his first night, he was stabbed and almost succumbed to his serious injuries.

A client of Haven Toronto moved in with a hoarder. Rent was “only” $300 - still half the money he had for the month. Out for the day, the client returned to discover that his new landlord had rifled through his possessions.

 

Were they looking for cash? He didn’t have any. Drugs? That’s not his style. Or maybe something they could sell. What were they expecting to find in the 2 bags that contained everything he owned?

 

Homeless and sleeping in a wintery bank off to one side of Jarvis, a plow passes, pushing snow up and onto the individual.

 

Buried, they suffocate in a man-made avalanche in downtown Toronto.

 

During the onset of hypothermia, the body shivers to create heat. When the shivering ceases, often, so does a life. This was reality for one of Toronto's homeless.

 

Once discovered, it took two days in a morgue to thaw the body enough to remove hands frozen to the face. Only then could they identify the person.

 

Unassisted, for 5 days in the shelter the elder man didn't get out of his chair. Not once. He was urinating in a cup that he had in his pants. Many times, the cup spilled. The 70 year old man's clothes were soaked.

 

 

You can improve the lives of elder men experiencing homelessness by making a donation or by purchasing something at ShopHavenToronto.ca

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