No Fixed Address (For Toronto Life, 2019)
Against a newly painted bridge support beneath Mount Pleasant, Cook could still see the charred smudges that marked the spot where 50-year-old Darren McKim was pulled from his burning tent in April. He died four days later at Sunnybrook Hospital. McKim had been known to outreach workers as one of the city’s chronically homeless, the technical term for people who spend more than six consecutive months without housing.
McKim’s name was added to the Toronto Homeless Memorial, an unofficial tally of people who have died as a result of homelessness, compiled by volunteers and posted at the Church of the Holy Trinity, where sombre crowds gather on the second Tuesday of each month to read aloud the names of the most recently deceased. According to officials at Toronto Public Health, who began keeping their own list in 2017, at least a hundred homeless people died that year. That’s almost two a week. Their median age is 48. After watching so many clients die over the past few years, Cook says his job has changed. His focus has become just trying to keep people alive.