Doug Johnson Hatlem-Toronto: Today, we will add the 700th name to the Homeless Memorial. Our monthly, second Tuesday, service begins at noon on the steps of the Church of the Holy Trinity. The Church of the Holy Trinity is behind the Eaton Centre, just off the Western exit nearest Sears.
We are adding six names to the homeless memorial today: one from 2012, four from January 2013, and one already from February. In order, the names included today are Tony Gorassi, Peter Gorecki, Jane Doe, Allan Milne, John Doe, and Luana Rizzo. Tony, Peter, and Allan were all residents of Seaton House.
Jane Doe represents the woman reported by the City of Toronto to have died in the City’s shelter system in January. Luana Rizzo died shortly after moving from time split between sleeping on the street and shelters to housing. She meets our criteria for death as a result of homelessness. John Doe burned to death while trying to keep warm with a propane heater in a metal bin. A security guard discovered him on fire in a park near Centennial college on January 26th, around 11pm.
A copy of the Official Homeless Memorial List may be found here:
The Homeless Memorial began as a yearly tribute in the 1980s and continued as an annual exercise until 2000 when Bonnie Briggs, who had spent a great deal of time homeless herself, insisted that a service should be held each month. Bonnie and Sherman Hesselgrave, the incumbent at Holy Trinity will, will read a poem including these lines:
“[D]eath on the streets of a great megacity is shameful, pathetic, unjust and wrong,
there’s no way to make the number look pretty … We gather to remember, to honour,
and name and work for the day when justice for all includes adequate housing for all.”
Tanya Gulliver, now a PhD student at York University in Environmental Studies, co-founded the Homeless Memorial with Bonnie Briggs and helded to maintain it for many years in her capacities as the Social Justice Worker at Church of the Holy Trinity and as a Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) management team member and TDRC office coordinator. Tanya states:
“I remember adding the 100th name, the 300th, the 500th and the 600th, but it’s the single names that stand out for me: Dusty Fiske, James Kagoshima, Jennifer Caldwell, Brian Boyd and of course, John Doe, Jane Doe and another John Doe. More than 12 years after we started publicly recognizing and honouring those who lived on the streets of Toronto and died as a direct result of homeless it saddens me that we don’t have a federal housing policy, that the city doesn’t provide proper supports and that month after month more names get added to the Memorial.