Directly outside the downtown Marriott Hotel, behind the Eaton Center, nestled beneath the towering skyscrapers of downtown Toronto, lies a church called The Church of the Holy Trinity.
A large red heart painted on the church doors beckon all who walk by to be welcomed, to belong, to enter. And just around the corner from those loving doors lies a memorial…a protected encasement of lists. These lists record the names of homeless individual who died on the streets of Toronto since 1985. Some include their known name. Some are listed as “John Doe” or “Jane Doe” in the absence of an identity. (You can read the names on these lists by clicking here.)
As I stand there reading the names which have been recorded for over two decades, looking at the numbers of lives lost on the streets, a man walking by moves in closer to see what has caught my interest. I tell him what it is. As he scrolls through the list he points out a name of someone he knew. And then another. And another. Until he’s counted five. Five people who he recognized on the streets who he tried to bring back to his community. Five who stayed, perhaps because of trauma and other complications of what “home” meant in that snapshot of time.
So they stayed, and they perished, on the streets of Toronto. And in this quiet spot at in Trinity Square, just moments away from the flashy, bustling Dundas Square, the memory of them rests in this memorial. Because they mattered. They didn’t need a house, a family, a car, or an income to matter. That’s the message this memorial sent me. I’m grateful to The Church of the Holy Trinity for making a landmark for these lives; to give them voice when so often the loss of homeless lives go unnoticed.
On the second Tuesday of each month a memorial service is held at noon just outside the south door of Holy Trinity. It’s a way to remember. It’s a way to reflect. It’s a way to pay respect to these individuals who meant something.
This Foraging Friday I am reflecting on what it means to matter. I don’t need to be a free-spirit or have a family. I don’t need to own property or be mortgage free. I don’t need to hold down a full time job or be so secure I can work when I want to. I don’t need my own wheels or a bus pass or a bike. My life matters regardless of any of that. And yours does too, as does each person who will sleep on the streets tonight.
November 22nd marked National Housing Day, in which the liberal government revealed a 10 billion dollar housing strategy. And I hope that plan comes to fruition. I hope that money gets filtered down to where it’s needed most. Because housing rights, as Trudeau said, are human rights. But, whether this puts a roof over every person’s head or not, that person’s worth is just as priceless as it was before. And in this quiet spot in Trinity Square below the wealth of towering corporations, the homeless will continue to matter each and every day. Even when they’re called “home.”