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When Family Can't Be There In A Crisis

For decades Henry has lived with his mother. She cares for him and he for her. The arrangement works. That is until she passed away late last year. Since then he has been looking at his options as neighbours look to help. Staying put is not a consideration. The house he has lived in for almost five decades, in the only community he has ever really known, is being sold. Henry must move.

The realities of real estate in Toronto are setting in. There is little that Henry can afford, if anything at all, and social services advised him that the wait for an apartment with rent geared to income is ten years or longer. With limited funds and income, Henry, like so many of his peers, is at risk of being homeless or precariously housed, living in conditions that leave him exposed and vulnerable. Some like him are easy targets and often taken advantage of, or worse, beaten and robbed.

What happens to people like Henry when family isn’t close or cannot be there in a crisis? For elder homeless and isolated men, there is Haven Toronto, the only drop-in centre in Canada dedicated to men age 50-plus.

Haven Toronto is a safe, welcoming space that provides clients with access to an onsite nurse and part-time doctor and dental hygienist. The centre offers housing help and crisis counselling plus meals three times daily and access to basics like free haircuts, laundry, showers, free WIFI and computers.

Haven Toronto also offers peace of mind.

Elder homeless men often have family — though at a distance or estranged — and family worries. Haven Toronto is there when families cannot be and that means peace of mind for people like Gord S.

For almost 30 years, Gord’s brother James was a client of Haven Toronto until he died in March. Gord and his family, some six hundred kilometres away, said they were relieved to know that Haven Toronto was caring for James. “Thanks for the physical and emotional support that you gave our brother,” Gord writes.

James was a regular at the drop-in centre, often seeing nurse Barry for medical support and often seen socializing with other clients. When James died, he was homeless but not alone. Said his brother, Gord, “Thank God he had Haven in his life.”

Recently, Haven Toronto staff visited Henry at his home, bringing him food and discussing options in terms of support including speaking with a housing worker. In one of the toughest housing markets in Canada, Haven Toronto helped find housing for dozens of elder homeless men last year.

In the end, Henry is leaving the comfort of his community and the familiarity of Toronto. He recognizes the challenges that come with moving, a new city and a new start. Henry is 59.




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