From Tony’s cold case files

December 24, 2006

Tony describes a case

“I’ve got this regular, she comes by most days. Now this one’s a real case. It’s always the same thing. Maybe she’s got a thing for me. Anyway, she’s goes on about how I should take better care of myself like I should go to the shelters, I should get the free meals at places they have for homeless folks — she doesn’t stop. Then she tells me that there’s a nice soup kitchen up at Eglinton [approx. 5 miles away]. Of course, for her it’s not too far but I’ve only got my bike. Anyway, I’ve told her a hundred times that they won’t feed me there anyway since I’m not from the area. So then she starts going on about how I’ve got stuff to be thankful for anyway, since I’ve got my health and that kind of stuff. Anyway she goes on like that for an hour and then she goes up the street and she hardly ever leaves me anything. She’s pretty unbelievable.”

PS: Per our posting on Dec. 20th for those wishing to give money to Tony, bank accounts have now been opened at Scotiabank. Particulars will be available here next week, once the branches have been notified, etc. The intent is to enable anyone in Canada to securely and transparently give money to Tony and/or to registered charities that are focussed on homelessness. Given the season, all of this is taking a bit longer than normal. Thanks for your interest and support.

25 Responses to “From Tony’s cold case files”

  1. diane Says:

    I hope that your research is honest about homeless people?

    There is a difference between being homeless and choosing to live that way.You can be homeless by choice, because you would rather do hard drugs than pay for a room.
    I have met a few homeless people who ask for money standing outside store and coffee shops. Then I have seen them go buy drugs at a well known drug place.
    So I do believe I will think twice before donating to this cause.

  2. denguy Says:

    “There is a difference between being homeless and choosing to live that way.”

    diane, are you nuts? No, really–it’s a serious question. Are you nuts? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever read.

  3. jen Says:

    Den, you make me laugh. I couldn’t agree more. I have met thousands of folks who are without a safe place to sleep. I’ve never met one that “chose” it. “Choosing” to sleep outside versus a shelter is not choosing. Shelters are rough. I’ve worked in them for years. They are not a place I would ever “choose” to sleep in.

    The problem is not drugs. Drugs are a symptom of suffering. The problem is not alcohol. Again, a sympton. Millions of “housed people” drink and do drugs.

    The problem is the lack of affordable housing. The lack of a community to provide for it’s community by offering affordable choices for housing, employment, and healthcare.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. But Tony and his friends are not the reason.

    Most of us are a paycheck or an illness away from homelessness.

    Happy Holidays, Gentlemen. And I completely understand your post – being homeless means you are forced to open yourself up to all sorts of advice from well meaning folks who are only seeing as far as your face and not the reasons you are sitting outside. They should be advising our governments instead.


  4. jen Says:


    I can’t let this go – so I’d like to invite you to write a post for my blog – I’d be honored if you consider it – if you are interested, email me.


  5. Jeremy Says:

    choosing to sleep outside is called camping. I dont think Tony would say he is camping.

    PS (Found my way here through G&M article)

  6. Mike E Says:

    re: I hope your research is honest…

    I am homeless & have been known to take speed when I have nowhere to sleep.

    I challenge Diane to spend a month with no place of her own, be offered a Dexedrine, and prove she would not do the same.

  7. diane Says:

    I am very sorry but I really think I have been missed understood?
    I do not believe sleeping out side is a choice.
    I know its rough out there.
    But I wonder if you get a cheque from government why
    would you not get yourself a room somewhere?
    I know that the government does not give enough money but at least a start with a room and some food and then if you need to panhandle to make ends meet or go to the food banks as well.
    I know of people who get rooms in winter and soon as spring comes they give it up so they have more money for there drugs.
    I have friend who gets money and pays his rent sometimes and then he gambles the rest away on scratch tickets instead of buying food, then complains he has no food.I feed him as best I can and he then tells people “know one helps him.”

    I my self have been disables my whole life and worked hard and have given to help others , who try to help them self.

    I truly know that I do not know the problems of everyone what has turned them to drugs.
    Yes there are many people who are housed that also do drugs but they have a place.
    Sorry but I did not want to offend anyone. Just want to get a better understanding.

    Merry Christmas to All , God Bless.

  8. Dickson Coatworthy Says:

    Often, with any small influx of money, there is a crucial choice to be made: a room for a night or food for three days. Being poor is a constant balancing between what need is to be met first, hunger or shelter.

    I don’t want to argue the points of poverty with anyone; this is what politicians do, argue, surveys, inquiries, posturing, gesture for the public. For me, a simple person perhaps, it is a matter of being non judging, to feel the desperation that faces more and more good people, who need to choose between a room or a meal because both are unattainable on the same night, and whose intergity and self-respect is only challenged by not having enough money to shelter and feed themselves. Our poor are educated, intelligent, and as varied as the people you meet daily. Let’s not argue. Let’s help.

  9. Nick Gill Says:

    Having been “camping” before in the winter in Nashville, Tennessee, I can personally attest to the tension that comes when choosing between food and shelter.

    First, I think most people in the Western world cannot grasp that tension for the simple reason that they’ve never ever been actually HUNGRY. They’ve skipped a meal or two… they’ve dieted, but they’ve never been HUNGRY.

    Second, I think most people imagine that shelter means safety. Sometimes shelter means no one can hear you when you scream for help.

    Nick Gill
    Frankfort, KY

  10. Mark Says:

    Hey Tony that’s just sad my dad helps out a shit load of people but i’m sure if he met you he would give a $100,000,000 if he had it he a people person he’ll help out anyone if they need it Tony i hope u get a lot of help it piss me off that there homeless people and the world could help and give them all homes instead of caring for the fucking rich people why not care for the damn homeless people for christ sakes 😦

  11. LinkMan Says:

    I have met thousands of folks who are without a safe place to sleep. I’ve never met one that “chose” it.

    Here’s one:

    The problem is the lack of affordable housing. The lack of a community to provide for it’s community by offering affordable choices for housing, employment, and healthcare.

    For some people, it takes far more than affordable housing to keep them off the street:

    I point out these articles not to disparage Tony’s plight. Articles about one mentally ill man in New York or a new approach to dealing with “hard cases” of homelessness do not necessarily tell us anything about the reasons Tony is on the street or how to help him as a real-life human being. I merely want to provide food for thought, and back everyone away from sweeping generalizations, whether they be microeconomic generalizations about homeless people choosing drugs over shelter, or macroeconomic generalizations about the cost of housing and other necessities.

    This is a superb blog. Keep up the good work, Tony and Philip!

  12. Randy Says:

    Tony is a FUCKING *LOSER* and I hate his kind. When I read his blog entries all I hear is “I can’t, I won’t, I can’t, I won’t” over and over. I’m not sure if it’s laziness or fear or both that give someone this attitude. At any rate, it’s all pathetic. All this wretched finger pointing and whining about the government and their efforts to help these people is just a manifestation of the “I can’t, I won’t” attitude that absolutely refuses to take responsibility for one’s own actions. Tony doesn’t deserve a dime of anyone’s money because it’s obvious he won’t use it or take any initiative, take personal responsibility and really help himself – that is, use either to get himself off the street and do something with his life. He’ll just continue going about life in the same old way and use the money in a manner that perpetuates his own self-induced condition. Only a BLIND FOOL would say “anyway she goes on like that for an hour and then she goes up the street and she hardly ever leaves me anything. She’s pretty unbelievable.” She leaves plenty for you each time, Tony, it’s just you don’t want to see it.

    I’ve long had a policy of never giving homeless people a dime unless they’re TRYING, whether that be doing something, ANYTHING to improve themselves, creating something worthwhile or somehow trying to brighten other people’s days. There’s a blind black fellow who sings and plays this really neat instrument inside Eglinton station sometimes. He’s so happy, unique and interesting with his music that I’ve been more than happy to give him all the change I have in my pocket just because he’s TRYING in some way, and it shows. This guy is blind and yet he’s *talented* … and the real reason he’s talented is because his mantra isn’t “I can’t, I won’t” like Tony’s is.

    Think of the writer Jack Kerouac. He travelled across America for 7 years in the fifties, roaming from place to place, job to job, person to person. Sometimes he was jobless, homeless, without a penny and starving. And yet he went on to write and re-write a book about his travels called On The Road until it was accepted by a publisher. It went on to sell millions of copies and defined a generation. Bob Dylan said that book changed his life. One of the lines from On The Road: “In the bar I told Dean ‘Hell man, I know very well you didn’t come to me only to want to become a writer, and after all what do I really know about it except you’ve got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict.'”

    I met a guy last year who had run away from home at 17 and lived on the streets homeless for almost a year. He said at one point he was doing some silly sort of act outside a bar for a while (juggling or something) and the manager inside the bar noticed it, liked his energy and gave him a job as a bartender. 17 years later, this same guy was one of my teachers teaching regular bartending classes and flair bartending classes at the Bartending School of Ontario.

    There is a line in Shakespear’s Julius Caesar: “There’s a tide in the affairs of men which, when taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries.” Amen.

  13. Richard Says:

    Well I have to say that reding through this list of responses it’s not really surprising to me that there’s a wide variety of ‘takes’ on the overall issue.

    I’m not going to argue either side as it is a dicey issue with many facets and I don’t want to get caught up and make this my sounding board.

    What I will say that is in my experience the majority of Canadians are proud to be Canadian. We pride ourselves on being approachable, helpful, loyal, and (I could take a long time defining it) uniquely Canadian.

    Part of this, and part of being a human being, is helping others. No matter their situation, no matter their plight. Randy says that he has a policy that he won’t give a dime to anyone unless they are trying … how do you define trying? how do you know someone is trying? there are many struggles some internal, some external that aren’t obvious to a passerby. I have the same struggle occasionally when I pass some of the homeless people on the streets of Toronto; they look high, they look like they’re looking for funding for their next fix … I just save my extra change for the next person I see who is not in the same state (and there are a lot of them).

    I urge everyone to think the next time that they pass by a homeless person who is ‘put together’ or ‘holding it together’ to ask themselves … is a little compassion a bad thing?

  14. bob the slob Says:

    Randy, the commentator, is of the type I like to call “fascist of conveinence,” someone who can mutter on about the derelection of the outside world, but remain utterly abhorrent to the slothful, faking, fortunate-son attitude he keeps to help him fell ok. Like a boy whistling in the dark to make minself feell better, really he exemplifies fear of the unknown, lack of empathy, and a boarderline sociopathic political stance.

  15. gone fishin Says:

    This guy is areal ungrateful vermin. He should either put up or shut up. What contribution did he make to the woman in his rather pathetic example, did he do shit for her, when is the last time tony released his stranglehold on his version of how things ought to be and tried to make (or even let) something happen. Try listening to that woman, you dumb-coff

  16. pat Says:

    We are always able to undermine the honest efforts of the underpriviliged. People are all unique and don’t always fit into our societals “norms”. Can the problem possibly be our expectation of reality. Men and women all over the world are living in fear and don’t know how to be normal. Compassion is what we need in these situations. Kindness leads to repentance. Treat others as you want to be treated. Everyone is really doing their best with the tools they have and if we can accept them how they are life will be much more joyful for all. God bless!

  17. awareness Says:

    Gee Randy………….hope you’re feeling better getting all that vitriol off your chest.

    How does it help anyone to point nasty venomous fingers at another human being and call them names? How does that help?

    I am all for wide ranging opinions……………….thats democratic, but when the “argument” or the “debate” starts with personalizing and demoralizing………..well gee it aint goin’ anywhere.

    Reminds me of the pendantic ragers on Fox………..oh and that Ann Coulter trash talker.

    I work in the frontlines…………most days, my office is occupied with me and a guy who lives on the street……or in the local shelter………..or is passing through………. My role is to listen, ask, confront, encourage, light a fire, and ask why…. there have been times when I have read the “file” and have made a judgement call before I have met the person. And 9 times out of 10, I’m wrong on the judgement. 9 times out of 10, they are too………because the human being who has been told they have to meet with me…….a career counsellor……………….more a personal counsellor……..have prejudged ME!
    I am no bleeding heart……………..I am an open heart…… I have learned WAY more about MANY things from my clients. The biggest lesson I have learned………..keep an open mind, ask many questions, listen………and KNOW that you will NEVER know the whole story…………….

    Tony…………….keep on telling your story………let er rip, cause there are a bunch of very interested people out in blogland who wanna read about it. Take care.

  18. Amanda Says:

    I wonder if this guy Randy intentionally visited this blog to call Tony a “fucking loser,” in that case, shame on you. Do you normally visit internet sites featuring content you CLEARLY don’t agree with just to call the people names? Also, your idea that Tony’s mantra is “I can’t, I won’t” is very similar to your own mantra of “I can’t understand why he’s homeless” and “I won’t give to un-talented(?) homeless people” or “I can’t accept the idea that this homeless person Tony is doing something creative and talented by simply using his voice!!” I think that according to Randy’s ideas on homeless people he should be giving Tony money because he has done something creative (even though it may not including juggling, music, or fancy colours).
    Anyways, I read the G&M article and thought about homeless people for days after reading the article and this site, your site may make a difference in how some people view the homeless, but doubtful to have any impact on people like Randy.
    And Tony I would have to agree with you on the lady who gives you constant advice, sometimes that “I know the world and want to tell you how to live in it” attitude is just annoying.

  19. Ken Says:

    If my buddy Tony is a loser as Randy suggests then why is it that I never hear him say “woe is me” when I share a smoke on the sidewalk with him. I see a man very like myself who has quite frankly grown sick of what’s happening in the world around us. I could fill a book about all the hits I’ve taken and I have phrases like I won’t and I can’t in my vocabulary as well. I WON’T work for people who CAN’T pay me. This attitude comes from working in an industry that Tony worked in and has some of the same stories. I was homeless once and it was a condition brought about by some else’s desisions. Things are not always as they seem to appear. Randy thinks it’s okay to stand back and judge people from the warmth of his computer station at home. He think’s it’s okay to point a finger at Tony and others like him bacause he was told at an early age that homeless people are drug addicts and are there by choice. I suggest to Randy that he needs to find Tony and talk to him and learn from him. He is a very intelligent man and I DON’T see a loser. I CAN’T agree with Randy and I probably WON’T pay him any respect if I see him on the street.

  20. Jim Says:

    If any one is a f…… loser it is Randy. Sounds like he has an inferiority complex and is trying to feel good by cutting up Tony. Well I for one don’t buy it! Grow up Randy. Tony is higher up the spectrum of humanity/foodchain than this invertebrate.

    Why is everyone offering to help Tony anyway. Tony looks like a smart guy and is quite capable of figuring out his own path. Stop pushing your beliefs/values on Tony. I respect what he’s doing and am quite impressed with his daily routine…definately a candidate for “survival of the fittest”. Way to go Tony.

  21. ChrisM Says:

    It’s way too easy to dismiss Ranty’s half-baked and self congratulatory ‘I-can’t-abide-nobody-who-ain’t-like-me’ (clearly a man of too much learning and not enough wisdom).

    And yet I am not sure I see a big difference between his response and others on this blog. There seems to be an unspoken assumption that ‘it’s not normal for Tony to live the way he does – he should be more like us’. At what point does our compassion turn to judgment?

    I read in Tony a man who suffers – but not because he sleeps in an alley: I suspect that is more symptom than cause. I doubt he would be any happier with a job or with a room. If this is the life he chooses who are we to suggest otherwise – even with the best of intentions?

    I also don’t see that Tony is impaired significantly by institutionalized prejudice, short-sighted public policy or inaccessible resources (all are valid homelessness issues and I think this blog does them a disservice by making Tony their tacit poster-boy).

    Why do we care to have him live differently? And why should we feel compelled to support him specifically? Where is the blog for the couple up the street who recently lost a child? And for the woman who can no longer see well enough to read? The man with chronic emphysema?

    To me it is ethical to support one’s community and ALL its members. I think it’s important to buy local; to engage in democracy; to use your voice; to encourage others and to extend a hand when you see people suffer – however that suffering manifests itself.

    Two last things: I do think whoever posts and promotes this blog should consider his intentions carefully. Out of context (something rather difficult to control given the medium), Tony appears to confirm the Neocon view that really, homelessness is nothing at all to worry about.

    And along those lines, I read the intention to offer an online means for ‘direct-to-Tony’ donatations. I hope you will reconsider. Such a thing offers no great benefit to those in your community and encouraging support for Tony from Kingston, or Kuala Lumpur is perverse.

  22. […] money to Tony or to Tony’s choice of charities February 2nd, 2007 PHILIP On Dec 24th (see the “PS” just above reader comments), I said that bank accounts were being set up to enable you to give money […]

  23. Gary Labita Says:

    I am an MSW and have worked with homeless vets and done outreach on the streets for years. DO NOT GIVE HOMELESS FOLKS MONEY! Bank accounts? Are you kidding? If you are lucky the money is being used for cigarettes, most likely its for alcohol or drugs. Please quit enabling! Gary Labita

  24. Mike E Says:

    I SAY: Do not give social workers money!! They’ll probably just pay their cable bill and buy bad chinese food.

    See, social workers are different from the rest of us. They don’t need money the way normal people do. In fact having a few bucks in their pocket to spend as they please does them — as well as society at large — more harm than good.

    Anyone who gives social workers money is enabling them. Please quit it. Social workers are a drain on civilization.

    Ok. Enough smart ass diatribe. But comments like that piss me off. What’s wrong with a homeless person getting a bank account?



  25. Barbara Cooper Says:

    “What’s wrong with a homeless person getting
    a Bank Account?”

    Are you kidding too? Does this guy pay taxes
    like we do? Does he do volunteer work?

    Does he work and make our community a much
    better place to live?

    He sits on his rear every day and complains that people don’t leave him anything…

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