In a short video produced with the help of Toronto’s Seeds of Hope Foundation, a middle-aged homeless man pleaded for help amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hi, hello, to whoever cares and is in charge my name is Jonus and I’m homeless,” he began, adding, “We’re not all evil or bad, we’re not all out to get nobody and we’re right now having a hard time trying to isolate.”
Kimberley Curry, executive director of Seeds of Hope Foundation, said she felt compelled to film Jonus to show the human side of those suffering with homelessness during this public health emergency.
“When we talk about dignity and sanctity of life, we’re falling horrifically short,” she said. “No one needs to suffer this, and I truly believe if everyone really knew the suffering, they really knew what was happening, they would rise up.”
Jonus told Global News he has been living on the streets for years, but has never felt “more homeless.”
“I completely understand the feeling of homelessness now more than I ever did all those years running in the cold,” he said.
Above all else right now, even more urgently than a warm place to stay, Jonus said those experiencing homelessness need more access to public washrooms.
The City of Toronto has installed several portable toilets downtown, but Jonus insisted more are needed.
“Just the washrooms really, that’s all we need right now … I myself had to go outdoors a couple of times … I didn’t feel good, as a homeless guy I always had a place go to take a quick moment now I had to go in the alleyway,” he said.
Jonus also pointed out, experts say everyone should be washing their hands, but he has no access to soap or fresh water.
“They say always wash you hands I can’t run to the lake every day just to wash my hands,” he said.
Another issue Jonus raised in the 75-second video online is the inability of the homeless to physically distance and self-isolate because quite simply, he said, he has no place to go.
Mary-Anne Bédard, the head of Toronto’s shelter department, said earlier this week that the city has moved 1,000 homeless people out of packed shelters and into hotel rooms, new emergency shelters and public housing units.
Jonus said he does not feel safe in the shelter system right now because there are too many other people inside and he can’t distance himself.
There are few alternatives, Curry noted.
“Eighty per cent of drop-ins have closed, 50 per cent of food banks and every washroom in the city,” she said.
Jonus said he felt compelled to speak candidly about his current situation because he is hopeful someone will listen and help.
“I don’t know all the answers, I know you guys are better at that and I hope you guys can help us with that … some of us kind of slip through the cracks and we get stuck out here and nobody can hear us because we don’t really know how to talk.”
This week, Toronto officials said that 30 homeless people have tested positive for coronavirus.
Advocates for the homeless have said they expect the number is much higher.
“I’m not speaking just for me, I swear to god all the homeless are stressed out right now. They’re really getting angry and I hope you guys help us please soon as you can,” Jonus said.View link »