Homeless Heroism

From the NY Times

Chris Parker

LONDON — For Chris Parker, the arena’s entrance area might have seemed like a good place to ask people for money. Stephen Jones had found a spot nearby to sleep.

Now, the two men, both homeless, are being praised as heroes for helping victims of the Manchester Arena bombing.

As Manchester and the rest of Britain were trying to come to terms with the country’s deadliest terrorist attack in more than a decade, the two men are being hailed on social media for their selflessness and courage.

Mr. Parker, 33, was panhandling when the bomb exploded, according to local news reports. The force of the blast knocked him to the floor, but he was unfazed.

Rather than running for safety, he went to the aid of victims, comforting a girl who had lost her legs, wrapping her in a T-shirt, and cradling a dying woman in his arms.

Mr. Jones, 35, says he pulled nails out of children’s arms and faces.

“Just because I am homeless doesn’t mean I haven’t got a heart, or I’m not human still,” he told ITV News. “I’d like to think someone would come and help me if I needed the help,” he said, adding that he had been overcome by an “instinct” to pitch in.

“It was children,” he continued. “It was a lot of children with blood all over them and crying and screaming.”

Mr. Parker told the news agency Press Association that amid the smoke and the shrieks after the explosion, he saw a little girl. “I wrapped her in one of the merchandise T-shirts, and I said, ‘Where is your mum and daddy?’ She said, ‘My dad is at work, my mum is up there,’” he was quoted as saying.

He also said he had tried to help an older woman who had head and leg injuries, but that she died in his arms.

“She was in her 60s, and she had been with her family. I haven’t stopped crying,” he told the Press Association. “The most shocking part of it is that it was a kids’ concert.”

After his actions became known, an online fund-raising page was set up for Mr. Parker. By early afternoon on Wednesday it had raised 30,000 pounds, or almost $40,000.

Another fund, for Mr. Jones, was listed on the JustGiving site.

The tragedy may have also helped to heal a family rift. After hearing about what Mr. Parker had done, his mother reached out.

“This is my son and I am desperate to get in touch with him,” she wrote on the fund-raising page. “We have been estranged for a very long time, and I had no idea he was homeless. I am very proud of him, and I think he might need me right now.”

Correction: May 24, 2017
An earlier version of this article omitted the name of Stephen Jones, who assisted victims of the attack, and by so doing mis-attributed several quotations. It was Mr. Jones, not Mr. Parker, who talked about being overcome by an instinct to help.

By Dan Bilefsky

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“The street’s on fire in a real death waltz …”

From the Toronto Star

Now get to work on homeless deaths: Editorial

There’s an old business adage that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. If you don’t know the size of a problem and how it’s changing over time, you almost certainly won’t do a good job of dealing with it.

For the first time, Toronto has a reasonably accurate measure of one of the most disturbing problems we face – the number of homeless people who die on our streets.

The first results show the situation is even worse than anyone thought. In the first three months of this year, 27 homeless people died – more than two a week. That’s far higher than the 11 deaths counted by volunteers with the Toronto Homeless Memorial over the same period.

If the trend continues all year, the total for 2017 will be over 100. That’s a lot more than the 33 homeless people who died last year in shelters run by the city.

The difference is that Toronto Public Health worked with 200 health organizations and social agencies to track the number of homeless deaths regardless of where they happened – in shelters or on the street.

Amazingly, no one had done that before in a systematic way. This, despite calls going back more than 30 years to carry out such a count. A coroner’s inquest recommended conducting a survey back in 1985, but it was never done.

The issue came up again early last year when the Star published a series of investigative articles on the “invisible dead,” homeless people who die among us without ever being officially accounted for.

It found that the province and most municipalities (including Toronto) had no way to track homeless deaths in a comprehensive way. That left them without the information needed to properly understand the scope of the problem. Its importance was downplayed and government wasn’t getting at the root causes.

Now, at least, governments have fewer excuses for inaction. As a result of the ongoing count by Toronto Public Health they are getting a much more accurate sense of how big the problem of homeless deaths is in our city.

No one expects that all such deaths can be prevented. Homelessness is associated with all sorts of health problems, and it’s no surprise that the new survey shows the median age of deaths was just 51.

But there is little doubt that the city and province can do more to lower the death toll among the homeless and save more people from dying, forgotten, on the streets of a rich city.

Governments can do more to provide reasonably priced housing for all. They can make sure that shelters are available, accessible and properly funded throughout the year, especially in the coldest months. No one should be turned away.

They can also do more to ensure that health services, especially mental health services, are made more easily accessible to this vulnerable population. This will involve better funding and more outreach to people who are hard to serve, in part because of the very health issues they are dealing with. Addiction services and harm reduction measures must be central to that effort.

The point of measuring homeless deaths is not just to commit sociology. It’s to prompt better-informed, more effective policies to address the issue. The count now underway will be pointless unless governments use it to take action.

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Sinai Tapestry (off-topic)

Blogs about social issues can become so earnest some times that they occasionally induce bouts of self-righteous ennui.  So, now and again, simple off-topic meanderings are a welcome diversion.  Today I re-stumbled upon this book, almost 40 years after I first stumbled upon it, and all the “first time” feelings flooded back.  It’s not about poverty, homelessness, or the injustice and violence of the mythical “deep state”.  But most of its characters are lowlives, so I’m making the stretch.


I was 22 (1978), working on the rail gangs in Western Canada earning tuition, living in a caboose, and channeling Woodie Guthrie by spending what little free time I had playing revolutionary songs on a pawn shop guitar sitting atop a boxcar. That never gets stale, but drinking every night in prairie town hotels does, and I’d run out of things to read. ( I’d just finished Ulysses and the cupboard ran dry). So I took a chance on a paperback I found in a local drug store in a town that maybe a few hundred people have heard of. (“Well ain’t this place a geographical oddity! Two weeks from everywhere!” – ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’. See what I did there with the reference to Ulysses?)

My mind was blown and slightly altered forever.

What grabs you, with both Sinai Tapestry and (to a just slightly lesser extent) it’s follow-up Jerusalem Poker, is the unholy mix of erudite historical speculation, wanton surreality, and gut-ache humour. Halfway through the first novel I still wasn’t completely sure what I’d stumbled upon but I knew I couldn’t stop. It was like a good/bad acid trip with hundreds of layers and unfathomable depth. And I don’t use the word “unholy” lightly. In previous eras this book (and Jerusalem Poker) would have been considered blasphemy of the highest order and unquestionably banned, with all sorts of woe poured down upon the author. Shakespeare called life “a tale told by an idiot”. Whittemore narrowed that metaphor down to The Bible.

The novel spans centuries, and The Quartet adds the remaining decades. The characters are not just larger than life but above it and beyond it. It’s not a typical fantasy. It takes place in our historical world and it doesn’t ask for the willing suspension of disbelief. It forces it upon you. There’s no magic in the accepted sense, unless the edges of reality can be called magic, and all of the events and characters are possible, if highly implausible. I’ve never laughed so hard while being educated in arcane history.

At first I thought it was just druggie humour (and it IS damn funny) and then I figured maybe historical speculation with a satirical edge, until it started playing with my mundane perceptions of time, history, and causality. It’s the kind of book (series) that weaves itself into your dreams.

Whittemore’s prose is brilliant, his historical research impeccable, his plotting intricate, and his sense of humour lies somewhere in that no man’s land between eccentric and clinically insane. I don’t intend to include spoilers, so the plot lines and characters are off limits, except to say that each and everyone is a complicated revelation. The history of the Levant (hence The Jerusalem Quartet) is the anchor, but around that anchor swirls a wild, weird universe of characters and events that drags you along with it, willingly. Combining history and metaphysics with deeply bizarre characterizations and making it all readable, didactic, emotionally engaging, entertaining, and hilarious is no mean feat. Whittemore is one of the best unknown authors of our time

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Wasting the meaning and losing the rhyme


I feel for my brothers and sisters, on and off the street.  Life’s always a bitch, but it’s worse when everyone is pretending to be happy.  My most poignant memory of Xmas eve was when I was working for the Shepherds of Good Hope.   I drew the night shift.  Better to be working than just wallowing in self pity.   I remember the bells going off at midnight, that big church in Lower town  which I don’t recall the name of.  I had a moment, a short one, when I thought everything would be alright.  That was years ago and things are definitely not alright.  But we have to keep hope — it’s all we have.  This is going to be a good year.


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Offered Without Comment (‘Cause Mom Said Don’t Speak When You’re Angry)

‘Patient is VSA’: Dispatch calls from Ottawa man’s fatal encounter with police

Continue reading

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Fentanyl, Your Last Train Home.

When I was shuffling around the streets of lowertowm, a smart middle class boy trying to get straight, there were dangers, but none I felt afraid of for myself. There were drugs. Lots of drugs Heroin still took a few lives every month. And there was crack, which didn’t so much kill as destroy. And there were assholes adding antifreeze to Heroin.


Mission — 2010

Now there is Fentanyl. It’s not a street drug. It’s stolen straight from the hospital.It is use primarily in palliative care, for those with chronic and persistent pain.  To ease the pain of the dying.  It is, in essence a suicide drug.

And yet I was in the Emergency at the Monfort with  COPD exacerbation (they happen)  and in the next bed a young girl could barely articulate how much Fentanyl she had taken.  She sounded barely alive but they brought her back with an opioid antagonist.   I’m not sure she realized that she had taken a drug intended as an anesthetic for surgery.

Street culture is tight.  Education can be effective.  But only if it is not The Man threatening incarceration and blowing smoke..  We need to give these folk a thorough education on pharmacology.  You can’t quit if you die first.give___take_2_by_xsugarclouds-d4cg4vo


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Promises … promises

I’ve been very neglectful of this blog, particularly now that our fellow LowLives are under siege all across North America.  I make this brief promise to try to do better.  My sort-of motto was to be the voice of the “wretched masses yearning to be free”, at least in the local area.  I seem to have come down with a case of laryngitis … worrying about my own trials and tribulations.  “Double, double, toil and trouble”.  There will be more to come.  What else have I to do?

My baby I m so proud I think I ll name her Jen She - 1784826670518



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