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.

A tent along Lakeshore Boulevard, in Toronto.
Daniel France, sleeping at King and Bay streets, in Toronto's Financial District.
The undersides of many of the city’s bridges have become makeshift homes for people who can’t find space at shelters or don’t feel safe there.
Sabrina Sese, 42, sleeps under a TTC tunnel in the Rosedale Valley ravine: “I went to jail in 2014, and when I got out, I went to the shelters. Sometimes I was lucky and got a private room, but more often, I was sleeping out in the open with all sorts of
Stacie Drover, 31, lives under the Gardiner: “A couple of months ago, I went to the hospital to give birth to my baby girl. When I came back to my apartment, my landlord told me he was kicking me out. I had no money, no food and a newborn, so my boyfriend
Arya, a former hospital administrator who suffers from anxiety and depression, has been in the shelter system for a year and a half. With rents at historic highs, landlords have their choice of tenants, and a homeless person with a history of mental illne
Roger, 60, sleeps beneath an east-end bridge and uses shelters occasionally: “My troubles started 15 years ago in Quebec. I was working as a garbage collector and making decent money. I had a girlfriend, who was quite a bit younger than I was. She got pre
Tania Pelletier, 33, lives outside until the cold forces her into one of the city’s shelters: “I’ve made a lot of bad choices in my life. The worst was getting into drugs. That was about six years ago, and my life spiralled out of control. I lost my kids,
Marie, 60, used to donate to shelters. Now she lives in one: “I went to university for a few years then dropped out and completed an arts program. I have a creative background. Sewing and costume stuff. After a series of deaths in my family, I fell into a
The city’s answer to its homelessness crisis is a 100-bed dome set up in the parking lot of Liberty Village’s Lamport Stadium, one of three such structures newly erected in the downtown core.
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