The first ever Windsor Walk For The Homeless, highlighting a community crisis, was held to raise awareness and help find ways support the homeless in the community on Saturday, September 29, 2018.
The event was co-organized by local community advocate Patsy Copus, who was quickly joined by City of Windsor Ward 8 Candidate Lisa Valente. The pair were joined by several City of Windsor candidates running in different wards, and members of the community at the foot of Ouellette Avenue at The Great Canadian Flag Project. Also in attendance supporting the walk were The Bad Examples Motorcycle Riders Club, and the Sober Sons Motorcycle Club.
Non-perishable food items and monetary donations were collected before the group headed through downtown Windsor. Along the way, marching to the beat of a drum that one participant brought, many of those in attendance held up signs which were designed to raise awareness about the homeless crisis in our community. “Homeless NEED Homes! Jobs! Respect!,” one sign read, while another, held by a young boy stated, “I’m walking for a change to end homelessness.” The group also shouted out chants such as, “Homes For The Homeless.”
The group headed to City Hall Square stopping at the City of Windsor Cenotaph where several guest speakers addressed the crowd. Some shocking statistics from the Homeless Coalition of Windsor Essex County were shared by Patsy Copus.
Patsy said that, “4435 is the total number of eligible applicants on the central housing registry waitlist for social and affordable housing as of December 31, 2017. That is just the total number of applicants and not the number of family members who are on the list. 505 households were added to the Windsor Essex By Name Prioritized list since February.”
“7 Billion dollars is the amount that the homeless cost when you average the cost of medical care, shelter, jail, and support services. We need to pressure the government and tell them how much they will save if they direct some of that budget to building affordable housing. One of the five panelists at the Homeless Coalition talk on Thursday repeated the message that Windsor doesn’t need more shelters, it needs more affordable housing. But here’s the problem Windsor, they only plan to build one new building that will have 150 apartments that will only put a small dent in the waiting list and our city and it’s representatives do not have a concrete plan for what will be done for the homeless this winter or in the immediate future.”
“So you ask yourself, what is the solution? Money! We need land from the city to build more apartments or money to convert old schools and make them a shelter with outreach workers helping people with mental illness and drug dependence.”
“As Anne Frank once said, ‘no one has ever become poor by giving.’ Our homeless have lost the ability to dream, they’re too busy trying to survive. In closing I want to repeat this quote from Helen Keller, ‘Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much!'”
“There’s not a greater issue facing the community, not just in Windsor Essex by the way, but across Canada, across North America, probably across the world,” said Ron Dunn, Executive Director of the Downtown Mission and Chair of the Homeless Coalition of Windsor and Essex County. “This has been going on for a long time, it’s not new.”
Organizers are happy that the homeless crisis in Windsor is getting some media attention, mainly from it being brought up during the 2018 municipal election campaign. They hope the issue will continue to receive attention after the election and that the Windsor Walk For The Homeless will become an annual event. Patsy Copus thanked City of Windsor Ward Candidates who attended saying, “all of the candidates who have been working hard canvassing for their wards, who know how serious our homeless problem is and will bring that message to the city if they are voted in.”
Donations collected were shared among Street Help, The Welcome Centre Shelter for Women, The Salvation Army, and the Downtown Mission. Monetary donations were used to purchase Tim Hortons gift cards and were handed out to the homeless.
More photos from the event will be posted on the Eyes On Windsor Facebook page soon.
Photos by Noah Gecelovsky
Noah Gecelovsky is a young photojournalist and St. Clair College journalism program graduate. He has covered events across Windsor-Essex County for the college’s Scene Magazine and the MediaPlex. As a freelance photographer, he has shot bands in cities across Southwestern Ontario and Michigan. When on the opposite of the camera lens, Noah is the talented drummer of Blues rock band, The Dead River Kings. Since 2017, Noah has offered freelance photography services as Raging Bull Photography which can be found on Facebook and Instagram.