It was a cold January morning outside the Church of the Holy Trinity where 25 people huddled together Tuesday for the monthly homeless memorial vigil to remember one death in December.

His name was Tony. He was only 42 years old.

“We’d been working on trying to get him housing for the last year,” said Aylish who hangs out at the Sanctuary, a place of worship in downtown Toronto that provides a meaningful place in a healthy community atmosphere, and who’d known Tony for the last three years.

“But he never made it off the streets before he died.”

Tony came to Toronto in his early 20’s and had lived on the streets ever since. He had a mother and brothers and sisters.

Aylish will always remember the advice he gave her: Never settle. Always do your best. She said Tony cared deeply about her life and what she was doing.

“His death was certainly preventable with the way he died so I’m glad there’s people here who are willing to fight for those things.” said Aylish choked with emotion. “But he was a phenomenal guy and I’m gonna miss him.”

A moment of silence was observed for Tony and others who’d fallen prey over the years to the harsh realities of living on the streets of Toronto, especially during the winter. Then Bonnie Briggs, who was homeless with her husband Kerre during the mid-1980’s, read her poem reflecting on whether the new decade would bring affordable housing or merely more empty promises.

“Maybe we’ll get a government that actually cares about poor people,” said Briggs. “Or maybe not.”

After the vigil, mourners retreated inside the warm church for a warm lunch, a luxury homeless people seldom get to experience during the long, cold winter months.

Click here to see more photos from the vigil.

John Bonnar

John Bonnar is an independent journalist producing print, photo, video and audio stories about social justice issues in and around Toronto.