rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Two men die at Seaton House men's shelter

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

It's the last week of our supporter drive and boy, do we need you! Please helprabble.ca amplify democratic movements. Become a monthly supporter.

Both men died on the same day. In the morning. At the same shelter. Of unnatural causes. Because there was nothing natural about a 52-year-old and a 69-year-old dying in a men's shelter in downtown Toronto. 

"If there had been two deaths within an hour or two of each other in any other city run facility, like a seniors' home or a daycare or a school, we would have at least seen a press statement or communication from the COO of the city or the coroner," said Cathy Crowe, street nurse and anti-poverty activist.

"And we've had total silence."

Total silence about two deaths that most likely were preventable had these two men been housed rather than living in a homeless shelter or on the streets.

Crowe encouraged people to email their city councillor and ask for more information as well as follow her on Twitter to learn more about how activists are pushing for more details to find out exactly what happened on the morning of June 30.

"Whether a death occurs inside or outside of the actual shelter has remained relatively stable with 20-30 per cent happening inside shelters, and 70-80 per cent occurring outside shelters, mainly in hospital," said the City of Toronto on its website in a general statement about housing and homelessness services.

"The average age of a deceased resident has remained relatively stable at between 50 and 56 years."

According to the city, there have been a total of 144 reported deaths of shelter residents in Toronto since 2007, 12 deaths in 2014 as of May 31.

"Overall, homeless individuals have 127 times higher chance of dying an early or preventable death than the average Canadian, with an estimated 1,350 homeless deaths in 2008," said Statistics Canada in their 2009 report entitled Deaths and death rate, by province and territory.

"Half of these deaths are a result of suicide, with homeless people likely giving up life in the desperation of their circumstances."

On June 10, another homeless Toronto man committed suicide.

"He tended to keep to himself," said Greg Cook, an outreach worker at Sanctuary Ministries in Toronto, during the monthly homeless memorial vigil held on the second Tuesday of every month outside the Church of the Holy Trinity. 

"He was a quiet man. He was quite prolific at collecting wine and beer bottles."

In an article published in the August 2004 edition of the Journal of American Medical Association, E. Roy said, "The suicide rate among the homeless is 460 per 100,000 compared with an average Canadian suicide rate of 11.6, nearly 40 times higher."

In the transgender community, a homeless young woman named Veronica jumped off an apartment balcony a few days ago.

"The transgendered community right now is in shock," said Janice, who attended Tuesday's memorial vigil.

In 2011, the National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force based in Washington, surveyed 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people.

The study found that 41 per cent of transgender and gender non-conforming people have attempted suicide, a rate far higher than the national average of 4.6 per cent. 

"It is part of social and legal convention in the United States to discriminate against, ridicule, and abuse transgender and gender non-conforming people within foundational institutions such as the family, schools, the workplace and health care settings, every day," said the authors. 

"Instead of recognizing that the moral failure lies in society's unwillingness to embrace different gender identities and expressions, society blames transgender and gender non-conforming people for bringing the discrimination and violence on themselves."

Michael Shapcott, Director of Affordable Housing and Social Innovation at the Wellesley Institute, welcomed a group of students from the Jack Layton Summer School for Youth Activism being held this week at Ryerson University.

"In 1998 when a group of people formed the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, we had this rather crazy idea that people who were made homeless because of social and economic forces should be given the same consideration as people who were made homeless because of floods and ice storms," said Shapcott.

"So we asked the mayors of Canada's largest cities to declare homelessness a national disaster and to call on the federal government to provide emergency relief."

In typical Laytonesque style, he managed to convince then-Toronto mayor Mel Lastman and 13 other city mayors to adopt the disaster declaration.

Six years later, Layton was speaking about homelessness inside the Church of the Holy Trinity during a federal election campaign.

"He dared to actually say that government policies that involved cutbacks to housing and homelessness programs left people dying on the streets of Toronto and across the country," said Shapcott.

"The media blew this up into a big scandal and said Jack Layton was accusing others of murdering homeless people. He wasn't. He was saying that what happens in federal parliament, in the provincial legislature, what happens at city hall affects the health and lives of people here in Toronto."

Ten years later, things haven't changed much. In fact, they're worse.

"There's still a rising tide of homelessness," said Shapcott. "And housing insecurity continues to be deep and persistent in Toronto and across Canada."


Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.