because "dying isn't so bad when you know that someone who loves you is nearby". There were two lessons for George in Mad Dog's death. The first lesson was "you don't have to do much". "Sometimes", George explained, "small things end up being something really big". The second lesson was that "you never know, with each small act, which one might turn into something great".
How Out Started
George also told us another story. The story of a homeless person whose death initiated a chain of events which produced the Out of the Cold Program that has now spread across the nation. It seems that there were two young St. Michael's Collegians who would go out behind the arena for a smoke at lunchtime. They found a homeless man holed up in the garbage bins and over the next few months they befriended him and shared their lunch and cigarettes with him. Then one day he wasn't there. He had frozen to death the night before. His body was laid out at the Anglican Chapel down the street where these two collegians met our friend George. Together they talked the Anglican minister into opening his doors for "just one night". Then they went to a church nearby and asked whether they had heared about the "wonderful thing that the Anglicans are doing" and one by one some 240 churches in Toronto opened their doors for "just one
night" for homeless people to come in "out of the cold." Our team asked whether elderly homeless people who come in out of the cold? "Most certainly", George and Lynda insisted. It was then that we were told that at the Women's Residence, as many as 13% of the clients might be over the age of 65. We were startled to discover during the deep freeze of the previous winter, the residence was the temporary home for a woman of 93 and another who was 87. Octogenerian homeless people. It was hard to imagine. That afternoon George and Lynda were asked whether education for shelter staff would be helpful. "Absolutely", we were told. "Aren't homeless people often alcoholic or ill with psychiatric problems?", we asked. "About 75% of shelter residents do" but, Lynda pointed out, many elderly people come to the shelters for protection from younger and more aggressive street people. And, when they do come they bring all the problems of frail elders with them: problems like confusion, memory difficulties, falls and fractures, incontinence, competency issues, respiratory problems, skin break down, inadequate walking aids and palliative care needs. "If you could teach us some of what you know about caring for elders it would really help us", said Lynda. "Knowledge that is second nature to you," she said, " like what is the right height for a walking stick, might be just the thing that we need to help a frail bag lady get through the winter without falling.". And so, the dye was cast. A team was formed to see what
Published on Jul 31, 2012
4. Alcohol consumption may be lower among older homeless people. 5. Some studies find low rates of mental illness. 6. The rate of diagnosabl...