BARRY’S BAY – A nurse at St. Francis Memorial Hospital is sharing in the Christmas spirit with Toronto’s homeless.
Lisa Hovinga has been a nurse for 33 years; she has spent 30 of those years working at the Barry’s Bay hospital.
She is a frequent visitor to Toronto and has seen firsthand the homelessness problem.
“When I go to Toronto, they are always on the street and begging for money,” she said. “Or, saying ‘I am hungry.’ You see their shoes torn or they are in their socked feet.”
While it would be rare to see someone sleeping on a park bench in a rural community, it’s a common occurrence in Toronto. Many of Toronto’s homeless are not from the city at all; they are from surrounding communities or even refugees from other countries.
According to the City of Toronto, 16,000 unique individuals used the city-administered emergency shelter system in 2016. That’s four times the population of the Madawaska Valley.
“I don’t know how they survive,” Hovinga said. “It was snowing the one night we were there.”
One person was ‘fortunate’ enough to own a tent.
“They were sleeping in a tent on a grate,” she said. “Normally it was cardboard boxes and they are huddled together in sleeping bags. They are on every corner, every little alcove, every heating grate. There is someone laying there in a sleeping bag, covered with cardboard boxes, begging for change or something to eat. They are cold, they are hungry.”
Hovinga, who has also volunteered her time caring for the poor in Haiti, wanted to do something about what she saw on Toronto’s streets.
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