Bill Buss laid to rest today in Toronto
KJ Mullins-Toronto: When Bill Buss, 71, died earlier this year he was alone, hidden in the stairwell of a vacant basement apartment. Today at Rosar Morrison Funeral home about 20 people gathered to bid him a final farewell.
Bill Buss was a quiet man of mystery. While he was a member of the Good Neighbours Club near Moss Park for 17 years there is little known about the man. Bill liked to read and share trivia with the workers at Good Neighbours but when it came to his own life silence.
Rev. David Bruce lead Buss’s funeral remembering his quiet kindness. Bruce told those gathered of Bill’s sly sense of humour. Once while leading a tour of Good Neighbours Bruce quietly guided his guests to the third floor where many of the elderly men enjoy quiet time at the drop-in. As he and the group walked past Bill he was sleeping in a chair, long legs extended. Then, quick as lightening Bill stuck his tongue out at the visitors before feigning sleep again.
Bill was quiet, quick to clean up the spaces he used with a cheerful smile. Lauro Monterio, director of operations at Good Neighbours, remembered Bill’s “amazing knowledge of how things were put together” and his quiet dignity. Monterio said that Bill never asked for anything from the staff, he was just thankful to have a place to go to every day. In his simple quiet gestures Bill showed his love of the other members of the club.
When Bill stopped going to the drop-in in March no one reported him missing. Today Monterio told Bill’s guests that what happened to Bill has changed how the centre will deal with future missing members.
“We (street outreach workers) are struggling with Bill’s death. We owe it to Bill to leave him a legacy,” Monterio said with sadness, “We are working to try to improve how drop-in centres deal with missing members.”
That statement comes on a day when another man had been missing from the centre. A quick phone call was made finding that the man had been arrested earlier this month.
Father Ed Keays, of the Good Shepherd Centre, took the death of Bill hard. He worked behind the scenes along with Street Health crisis nurse Anne Marie Batten to identify Bill. Bill, like the other men who go to Good Neighbours are his family. “When someone walks through the door they become our family. One of the saddest things is to lose someone so unexpectedly and so alone. We gather with a sense of loss but also with joy because of our faith,” Keays said.
Batten said that one of the hardest stories that she hears from those on the streets is their fear that they will, like Bill, die alone.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam attended the service today to remember the man that touched so many in Toronto, not with his life perhaps but in his lonely death. Wong-Tam is working to improve how the homeless are treated in her ward and throughout the city.
No one knows who Bill Buss was in reality. He was too quiet a soul to share his life with others. He died not knowing that he made an impact on his city and that his life was not in vain. Because of Bill the city drop-ins are paying more attention when regulars do not show up and people are talking about the issues that the homeless face every day. Bill did not cure homelessness but his name may be a starting step to changes. Thank you Bill.