DEAD ZONE

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4 August 2017
DEAD ZONE
Richard Hil

Toronto is often talked about in the same breath as Melbourne: a cool, cosmopolitan city, bristling with life, and the preferred destination for thousands of tourists, like me. I'm a low brow traveller though, slumming it in an Airbnb just outside the city’s centre. 

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I'm near Liberty Village, a super cool area of converted warehouse condos and new office complexes. There are bars and cafes galore, and an assortment of boutique breweries and bars – indispensable watering holes for the budding executive. 

Homelessness

Interestingly, the village is also home – if that’s the right word - to a number of homeless people.  You know, the unpeople, the folk who pester you for a few cents, or who cocoon themselves in moth eaten sleeping bags and soggy cardboard sheets.

The thing is, there are good wooden benches to be had around here, and you're less likely to get beaten up. And if you're going to beg, because what else is there to do when food is short, this is the place to do it – it's an IT, marketing and design Mecca. Lots of cashed up, platinum credit card holders with a smattering of social conscience, all ripe for the token handout.  Some hipsters will of course view these forlorn ghosts as an eyesore, spoiling the otherwise pristine surrounds.

Like most major centres in North America, Toronto has its fair share of homeless people, trudging from one ghastly hostel to another, or simply living (as it were) on the street. You see them everywhere, an awkward reminder that despite the trappings of wealth, you just can't rid cities of the poor. There are simply too many of them, even straying into contrived villages. The more than occasional disregard shown by some toward the homeless, is – at least in Toronto – echoed by the callousness of the city’s authorities. 

It turns out that since the beginning of this year, 46 homeless people have died from undisclosed causes. 

 

The average age is 48 years, considerably less than the city's average life expectancy of 80 years. Faced with this appalling tally, a local city councillor opined:

 

So, remember, if you ever visit Toronto or elsewhere in Ontario don't step over the homeless guy, or ignore his or her plea for a few lousy cents, it could be an act of kindness that apparently doesn't extend once they’re dead. It’s all rather odd when you think about it, because in an era of economic rationalism, the bean counters seem obsessed with recording everything, especially when it comes to the bottom line. Maybe that's why the homeless dead don’t matter.

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