Tuesday, November 14, 2006, marked a grim anniversary.
The Homeless Memorial at the Church of the Holy Trinity in downtown Toronto added its 500th name at the regular monthly service yesterday.
That’s 500 women, men and children – our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, our brothers, our sons, our daughters – who have died on or close to Toronto’s streets in recent years. The Memorial was launched in the year 2000 as a joint initiative of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee and the Church of the Holy Trinity.
On the second Tuesday of every month, at 12 noon, there is a simple ceremony to add the names of the two, four, seven or sometimes more people who have died in the previous month.
The goal of the service is to remember those who died and to give them some of the respect and dignity in death that they didn’t get during their lives on our streets.
Equally importantly, each month, those that are gathered re-commit themselves to the struggle for more affordable housing and better health and support services for the homeless.
The list, sadly, is not complete. In recent years, there have been a growing number of “John Doe’s” and “Jane Doe’s” – people who have died without a home and without even a name to leave behind. The nameless dead stay for a while in the provincial morgue before they are given a pauper’s funeral by the City of Toronto.
At yesterday’s service, I brought copies of the Wellesley Institute’s Blueprint to End Homelessness in Toronto. Another report won’t, by itself, change much. But in the three weeks since its launch, the Blueprint has been gathering momentum.
David Miller, who was re-elected as Toronto’s Mayor on Monday, publicly endorsed the Blueprint in the final week of the election campaign.
Support for the plan is growing across the city.
Check out the Blueprint here.