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Opening Doors

September 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Special Features


Opening DoorsI’d like to introduce you to a man that I never met. In fact, few have ever met him. Yet sadly, we all know who he was.

This man was forgotten by a world fast moving. This nameless, faceless man remained unknown until his death on June 12, 2012. His decomposing body was found under a stairwell three weeks after his death of “natural causes.” He was found only because the rotting stench of human decay alerted us to his presence.

William (Bill) Buss was born on April 2, 1941, in the tiny hamlet of Minitonas in Manitoba. Even those who knew Bill knew very little about him. For over 17 years, Bill was a member of The Good Neighbours’ Club. The Club is located in the downtown east side of Toronto, where I serve as a newly elected city councillor. The Good Neighbours’ Club provides hot meals, clothing, library services, haircuts and friendship to homeless men in their 50s.

Despite his daily attendance for breakfast, lunch and warm snacks, little is known about Bill. Workers and volunteers remember him as someone who kept to himself. They say Bill was a gentle man, deeply engrossed in encyclopedias and mechanical magazines.

The Club administrators pored over thousands of photos to find an image of Bill for the police once they learned of his passing. To their surprise, none could be found of Bill, a testament to his shy, loner status. Bill left our world the way he chose to live it: independent and alone.

Our culture is often fixated on the youthful and material things of life. Older men like Bill often find they are unable to fit into this culture and thus hide away from it. They are often homeless. Homeless seniors are vulnerable and may not feel safe in Toronto’s shelters where stronger, younger men aggressively run the roost.

Ontario has the worst record of affordable housing across Canada. There are 156,358 Ontario households on wait lists as of December 31, 2011. The number of seniors waiting for housing has grown steadily since 2004, reaching 39,463 households today. Ontarians without affordable housing travel to Toronto where the lion’s share of social services is located. Regardless of where the poor, sick and old have come from, they are now residents in our city and we are on this journey of life together.

Bill was one of these seniors waiting for a home. He did not feel safe in the shelters and chose to live on the street. The City of Toronto must triple its resolve to build affordable housing. The other levels of government must own up to their responsibilities as well. No more excuses. No more tears. We have to do better. Let’s start now.


One Response to “Opening Doors”

  1. » City Life: Opening Doors on October 3rd, 2012 5:47 pm

    […] Read the complete article here. […]

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