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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Homeless Signs

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Those who read city blogs like BlogTO and various urban-minded Flickr feeds may have seen photos of a series of official looking signs around town that warn good Torontonians of homeless conditions nearby. Are they official? Is Toronto even more progressive than we thought? It turns out they are the work of Mark Daye, a 4th year graphic design student at OCAD.

Instead of rebranding a product, or service for my 4th year thesis project I chose to represent a local population that usually gets overlooked. I re-coded official signage and affixed 30 of them to poles in the downtown core with messages pertaining to an obvious but ignored urban sub culture. The goal was not only to catch people off guard by creating signs that acknowledge the homeless population on a seemingly official level, but to get people to think about codes of behaviour, conformity, acceptance and to maybe spare some consideration for the homeless who live mostly ignored in the city, blending into the background just like the signs.

Daye went on to say that the amount of feedback he’s got from the sign project has been good, and that “If I have learned anything it’s that Toronto has a lot of interested people who actively look at the city, not just travel through it”.



  1. I am very impressed by the project and appreciate the message.

    I must express my concern with the “please have change ready”, though, but I guess there is no “right answer” to the question, “Should begging be discouraged?”

  2. I meant BlogTO. There was a photo of one of the signs on their site yesterday. I don’t know if Torontoist had a post about them (I assume they did since you mention it) but I don’t read it regularly. The Now blog had a post on it too.

  3. Yeah BlogTO had featured the signs, so did torontoist and Now — they seem to be grabbing a lot of attention!

  4. Fantastic! I really love this concept. But I do wonder what homeless people and advocates for the homeless and under-housed think of this…

  5. I hate this. All it does is makes us all feel guilty for something we as citizens have nothing to apologize for. We pay an exorbitant amount in taxes- I should never have to see any homeless on the streets of our city. You really want to help them? Circumvent their civil rights and force them into treatment- get them alcohol & drug free. How about workfare to instill some pride & money earned for work done? Oh yeah- that idea for a homeless/addiction house on the corner of Richmond & Peter? That’s just about the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.

  6. Hey Tim Das > I think you were looking for Jane Pitfield or Doug Holyday’s blog.

  7. Mr. Daye,

    This is a fabulously thoughtful, insightful project. We absolutely should not be allowed to ignore those less fortunate. Your project makes that impossible. We need to be reminded to treat our fellow travellers with respect, be made to feel uncomfortable by the lack of support provided and in turn pressure every level of governemt at every turn. The only piece I take issue with is the ‘Homelesness has nothing to do with lack of shelter’ sign. It is not possible to pull oneself up and better one’s circumstances without secure, permanent housing – a small home of one’s own where one can feed oneself at reasonable cost, keep clean and be contacted. A was once said – It all begins with an address.

    Thanks for what you have done. Let’s hope it attracts lots of attention and generates lots of comment.

  8. Giving change to the homeless only supports the local crack dealers and organized crime. This is not to say the problem doesn’t need attention. But whatever we’ve been doing, all the support programs, hostels, social workers and whatnot hasn’t worked.

    One of the first thing tourists remark on is how shocked they are at all the homeless here. That and the smog.

  9. Love the concept. I’m for leaving the signs out about the money. But the rest, makes you think. Rather have these than the infotogo things.

  10. Oh no, the tourists might see that Toronto has real problems that aren’t being solved. What ever shall we do?

    I know! Let’s actually build affordable housing. And let’s actually make our governments collectively invest in a social safety net that won’t give out on somebody as soon as they actually need it.

    But guess what folks, that might mean that we can’t afford all those tax cuts our good friends Mike Harris and Paul Martin handed out year after year.

    Surely you’ll all agree that nothing is free. So either demand a tax increase or shut up with your complaints that our problems aren’t being fixed by Government.

  11. Hey all. Let me first say that I think this guys work was great. There are many arguments on both side of this debate, both with valid arguments. I take exception though, to people who talk about solving problems on a grande scale. ( ie: workfare, building affordable housing etc…)

    We are all part of the problem. (obvious, i know) It’s all good to critique your government and its spending habits. But don’t forget, you paid 1500 dollars for a piece of digital photography equipment that cost a fraction of that to make in a country thousands of miles away. Just because you voice your opinion in an “anti-establishment” kind of way, it does not make you the saviour of the disenfranchised.

    Why not try to take care of the people closest to you and maybe we can move on from there. If you feel so bad about homelessness, walk around the corner, go up to the guy/gal sleeping in a box and offer him your roof and food until he can get back on his feet. You and I both know that we have way more than we need so why not share it with a homeless person? Not running out to save a homeless person yet? Then shut it up and stop patting yourself on the back.

    Thanks and bye bye 🙂

  12. > Giving change to the homeless only supports
    > the local crack dealers and organized crime.

    Yep, as well as encourages the homeless to be more assertive in their panhandling, sometimes to the point of getting aggressive. And encourages them to stay on the streets instead of trying to find something better to do, with or without whatever government programs are in place to help them.

  13. I noticed the signs around Dundas Square and Ryerson, and thought it was an interesting project. My favourite is the “keep the streets clean” one. If art is supposed to generate thought and discussion, then it is a complete success.

    There’s an article in Today’s Star on this.

    Going slightly off-topic, my favourite quote is from Brad Ross for the city:

    “The signs that the city (has) are way-finding and also letting people know what the restrictions are with respect to parking and stopping and turning and those kinds of things. They’re strictly for motorists to understand what the bylaws are on the roads.”

    Good to know the city signs are “strictly for motorists” (and as if they even pay attention to stopping or turning restrictions anyway). I’ll remember that when I’m on my bike.

  14. I don’t understand how this guy can claim he knows how many homeless there are when “homeless advocates” disrupted the City’s attempt to find that out.

  15. Does anyone know how much money the Sally Ann and church hostels get from the government for squeezing these poor wretches into TB incubators that were found to be below UN refugee standards a couple years back?

  16. I haven’t heard too much of a reaction yet from homeless people or anti-poverty activists. I gather the City has removed the signs already – so wish I had seen them for real. I think they were provocative and I’d be curious to know if the artist
    sought out guidance from homeless people or anti-poverty activists in advance, for eg. depending on the placement it could have drawn too much attention in a negative way (i.e. attention of City Works department) to a person sleeping in a certain spot, leading to removal of the person/property. The speed of the sign removal is indicative of how the city lacks tolerance to people outside these

    PS – this is my first blog! Cathy Crowe, Street Nurse

  17. Thanks Cathy!
    Someone at OCAP told me they thought it was good too, since it generated discussion around homelessness-which is always useful.

  18. There’s still a “Quiet: Homeless people sleeping.” sign at the corner of Queen and Victoria on the southwest side as of 3PM today. Not all are gone yet. Further up Victoria, there was one half way between Dundas and Gould on the east side (pictured above) that I believe is still there. With work crews out at Dundas and Victoria replacing streetcar tracks, the one on Dundas south side at Dundas Square might still be there too.

  19. According to a story linked higher up today, OCAP doesn’t like that shelters are being closed and homeless are being given public housing apartments in, horror of horrors – the SUBURBS!!!

  20. we need that in detroit. but the sign should just say “warning, homeless people.” them guys will straight up rob you.

  21. Last night, I was surprised to see there was still a “Homeless sleeping – QUIET” outside Mt. Sinai Hospital.

  22. Re: Mark Dowling.

    All his statistics are taken from the 2006 Street Needs Assessment that the city completed in April of last year. (818 estimated homeless were found outdoors that night, and 5052 was the estimated combined from shelters, health centres, corrections and the outdoors)
    He’s using the officially released data, as contested as it was, from

  23. mobius – Assuming your post is sarcastic… Taking a homeless individual and giving them an apartment doesn’t make them self sufficient, they still may need job training/skills workshops, a drug/rehab program, counseling or gasp, a car depending on how deep into the suburbs they are sent for their ‘housing’. Considering that most services that offer these things aren’t readily available in most suburbs yet, but are condensed and offered close by in the downtown area, it doesn’t make sense to ship people to the suburbs who need the services primarily offered downtown. They spend more money getting back downtown to obtain said services.

  24. Then maybe the services shouldn’t be all concentrated downtown either. Why can’t some other areas bear some of the burden? It’s like the frickin’ Night of the Living Dead out there sometimes.

    Maybe there’s a vested interest in keeping them. Apparently the head of the needle exchange program, for one, makes in excess of 100K annually. Yes, the misery mongers are doing quite well with things as they are.

  25. I speak from a few angles of personal and professional experience spanning 4 provinces and 26 years.

    The homeless have, in most cases, chosen this lifestyle through their own actions.

    My estimate is that only 10% to 15% really need assistance, and they often get overlooked among the crowd of the not so needy.

    Do NOT give change to the homeless – panhandlers most often use the money to finance their habit.

  26. Anne, the question is WHY have they ‘chosen’ this lifestyle. Surely not for a pocket of change and the fresh air.

    As for their ‘habit’, some of us call it hunger.

  27. Hmm, interesting that there is so much focus here on the addiction aspect. The reality is that a disporportionate number of homeless people are dealing with a mental illness–very often untreated and, unfortunatley, a high number deal with “concurrent disorders” where they are also abusing substances. A huge study in New York indicated that renting an apartment (suburbs, downtown, wherever) and providing an individual with 24 hour support ends up costing far less than what it costs to deal with homeless individuals who often end up in costly emergency wards, court systems, etc.

    However, even if such a system were in place, the Mental Health Act still allows those who are unwell (mental illness and/or addiction ) to make the “choice” of being untreated, living on the streets, etc.

  28. I was a homeless person addicted to alcohol and crack for 10 years. I have been clean and sober and living off the streets for over 2 years now.
    I highly approve and appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into this sign project.

    To those who argue against giving change to the homeless, I’d like to make two points.

    1) Yes, much of that change goes to support addiction, but many out there are not addicts and NEED THE HELP. Also, the change that an addict receives isn’t used exclusively for drugs. Without your help, he would starve and/or die of exposure. Addiction is never a chosen destination in life. It happens when we loose our way.

    2) You could consider giving change as a form of crime prevention. People on the streets prefer to survive without causing anyone any harm or discomfort, but if they can not get the things they need to survive (including supporting their habit) peacefully, they will be forced to straight up rob you. SURVIVAL WILL TAKE PRECEDENCE.

  29. Dear Mark: Can you please give me a call at Yonge Street Mission-416-925-6069 ext 227 or email me your contact information at

    Thank you.

    Dr. Rick Tobias, President & CEO
    Yonge Street Mission
    310 Gerrard Street East
    Toronto, ON M5A 2G4

  30. Toronto began to have a large upward curve in the homeless population post 1979 when both the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital and Queen St. Mental Heath started closing or rolling back services – I agree with the comment that many of these persons have mental issues that need more than casual supervsion by our health and welfare services especially those with schizophrenia.

  31. Sadly while it’s a new concept, it’s underdeveloped.

    The job of a sign is to provide the viewer with enough information so they can decide what it is they should do next.

    If an action line was included to motivate donations, eg. Send donations to Yonge Street Mission or Queen Street Mental Institute, etc., then at least their existence is working toward a solution.

  32. Hi Mark,

    Would you mind giving me a shout? I can be reached by phone at 416-203-0050 ext 289 or by email at monica(at)

    Thanks so much!

    Monica Nunes
    Public Education Coordinator
    Daily Bread Food Bank

  33. Hello,

    homelessness is no topic in Germany, but steadily growing due to unemployment! You can solve this problem as a rich country by changing your social system. It’s a shame that the richest countries produce such an amount of unlucky unemployed! I’m shure that Americans will be the first and only ones worldwide to pay an unconditional salary to EVERYBODY! This would be a proof of generosity and capacity of the people of America! The fortune of individuals like Bill Gates will help to realize this project. Good luck! I love America!

    Kind regards
    Andreas Rochow

  34. I’d like to see a class action suit on behalf of downtown residents and businesses against the government for allowing all the institutions, shelters, missions, etc. to be concentrated downtown. They should be fairly dispersed throughout the city and even beyond into the 905.

    This is a classic example of an illness industry as opposed to a health or wellness industry.

  35. hey im doing a speach about this topick and ide like to say i like what you guys are doing its awsum work and i think that more of these signs should be put up…
    good start 🙂

  36. I was just reading Tim Das’s comment, and it was a bit hard for me to understand at first. I Work, go to school and pay my fair share of taxes, yet i have slept on Toronto streets many times. I’ve spent most of my days with my belongings on my back, and studying in store doorways. I never begged for change, but there were a few people who did help me out with a sandwich or a few pieces of change. (THANK YOU!)
    I now have a couch to sleep on, but it doesn’t mean homelessness isn’t a problem in my mind.
    I dont expect an apology from anyone, i know where i am and how i got here.
    And i do have pride and money for my work done. But it pays my Tuition, Food, and everyday living.
    Thank you Tim Das, for reassuring the Pride within me knowing that im working hard towards my dream.

  37. An important thing to remember:
    MANY people are only an eviction, a firing or lay off, a latent mental illness or simply one wrong turn in life from living on the streets.

    Without good friends and family (not everybody has them)it is easy to become a homeless statistic.

    I have very little money myself but am usually willing to give a loonie/toonie if I have one in my pocket simply because it could be ANY of us someday.

    Be thankful. Be Generous. You may be all they have.

  38. We are all one paycheck away from homelessness.

  39. Fantastic Mark Day.

    Tim and Martha power to you.

    It will be interesting how other activists may use this concept !?

    After all so many of the modern issues are intergrated by nature, certainly in the Caribbean where I am it is so.


  40. Very Thought provoking I think, and an ingenious way to get people to notice the world around them…how about one that says ‘Warning – Greyhounds being slain for nothing’?

  41. I’d like to see a sign that says “Yes I have plenty of change, thanks for asking!”

  42. Interesting ideas but I don’t agree.

    Your not helping reduce the numbers by putting signs up and making people feel bad for these homeless people. Also it’s not a good idea to promote panhandling in the street, why not do something that involves getting these people into a shelter or some kind of job where they can earn…read that again…EARN money not just get paid out by the people nice enough to part with their cash.

  43. This is a thesis project? Wow, you really can major in GameBoy if you know how to bullshit.

  44. I agree with Andrew. A labor economist might describe a panhandler who makes $40 a day as being on the same utility curve as one who makes $50 a day in a minimum wage job and then spends $15 on rent. The only problem is that panhandlers aren’t doing anything to make a bigger economic pie, they are just taking their slice effortlessly. Also, there is no incentive to invest in education to become a better panhandler, so there is no possibility for upward mobility or teaching of skills to others once you have become good at your trade.

  45. Not all homeless people are drug addicts.

  46. The Artist developed a perfect idea. He wasn’t aiming to solve homelessness. Obviously, it is not that simple otherwise it would have been solved a long-ass time ago. Rather, what he has done here has disrupted the streamline flow of information that we are subjected to everyday that usually pertains to feeding the capitalist, emotionless society that we all are part of but rarely think about. He has thrown a wrench into the ‘machine’, stopped up production and caused a major jolt in the system, making us stop, look, listen, and… wait for it… THINK. Wow. This was project was genius.
    And also, the feelings that directly ensue are a direct reflection of your own character. I don’t imagine that guilt was his intended reaction, though it is one reaction. It’s been my experience that when your reaction is guilt you should probably take a moment, first to get over your immediate defensiveness that will usually be directed towards someone else, and second to understand why you feel that way.
    I give to people less fortunate than me when I can. It’s not usually much, but I’ve gotten over the fact that they “might” use it for drugs or this or that. And in all honesty I’ve dealt with the feeling of “why should I give my money, that I’ve worked so “hard” for to this person who isn’t helping themselves and will probably just use it for drugs/alcohol anyway.” This reaction is mostly a selfish one. Once this money leaves my hand, with peaceful and selfless intent, I hope that the recipient will use it to eat something. I can’t control what they do with it. But I don’t foresee that the 75 cents I provide someone with is really going to fuel a crack addiction. I also know that 75 cents will not provide them with a nutritionally sound meal, either. But for now, it’s what I can do to help, it’s something. Something is always better than nothing.
    We all have weaknesses and faults. Basically, what we’re being forced to do is open our eyes, and that my friends, is a big deal. I thank the artist, very sincerely.

  47. “homelessness has nothing to do with lack of shelter”.

    OK then, what *does* it have to do with? Is this where I’m supposed to think that every homeless person is a hard-working, skilled citizen of the community that just had a single financially-catastrophic month and now they’re on the street? Its such touchy-feely nonsense, most homeless are there by *choice* and all the college-kid-playing-with-signs in the world isn’t going to change that.

    Grow up and realize that you can’t save everyone. Not everyone wants to be saved.

  48. The less fortunate just stole my car stereo and all my CDs.

  49. Hey, your project is great. I truly love it and hope you are going to push forward in this direction.

  50. “We are all one paycheck away from homelessness.”

    Not true. Many of us have persevered through many of life’s trials and tribulations, have worked our asses off to better ourselves, paid for our own schooling without the help from anyone (even our parents), avoided government assistance at all costs (to keep our sense of self esteem and independence and keep taxes on our fellow citizens low), lived well below our means, saved a good portion of our wages, and invested those savings to create financial security for ourselves and those we love. MANY of us could live without a paycheck for months on end because we have taken the future seriously and have prepared for such events as unemployment or even disability by saving and buying insurance.

    Anyone can do this if they don’t make excuses for themselves and, more importantly, don’t allow other people to make excuses for them. The answer to the problem of homelessness is NOT the government. The answer is charitable giving and the good works of individuals and organizations who care enough to take people in and care for them. Many homeless adults KNOW why they are homeless. They know they made poor decisions in their lives, know they made poor choices along the way. Such poor decisions and choices are what made them poor and on the streets. It is their individual responsibility to make the right decisions and the right choices to become a full-fledged, contributing member again of Canada’s and/or America’s almost embarrassingly wealthy societies. Being homeless in Canada or America is a relative luxury compared to being homeless in the Sudan, the slums of Manila, the slums of Rio, or the slums throughout India and Pakistan. Many people around the world would give their lives to be living homeless on the streets of Canada or America. Many do just that trying to illegally immigrate here from Cuba, Mexico, Guatamala, and other South American countries with failed socialist governments. Expect a large influx of Venezuelans fleeing to Canada and America over the next few years as they search for a better life in freedom from government intervention in their personal lives and dictatorial tyranny courtesy of Hugo Chavez.

    There is a reason that America is a beacon for the world’s oppressed and disenfranchised. We offer freedom, the pursuit of happiness, and the challenge of personal responsibility. America is what you make of it. The non-mentally ill adults living on the streets of America have a choice. That choice is up to them — not you or me.

  51. Great project. You should host the actual sign images on your site and allow people to download the signs so they can print them and post them through out other cites (minus the Toronto specific sign).

  52. This is a great project. Especially with the coordination of a message board… well done.

    While some people “choose” to be homeless, most do not. To say that being homeless in America or Canada is better than being homeless in the Sudan is obvious and irrelevant.
    The biggest contributor to homelessness is economic inequality. The reality is that many who are homeless were productive members of society who experienced some catastrophic event and lost everything. Believe it or not Claire but we are all “one paycheck away from homelessness”.
    Do some people make bad decisions that put them in this situation? Yes, but you can’t tell me that someone working for minimum wage and supporting a child could save money in a 401k if they didn’t “make excuses for themselves”.

    This is not to discount the point though that “not everyone wants to be saved”. That certainly has to be taken into account when having this type of debate, but I personally know people who became homeless because they happened to be in the lowest income bracket and had some unfortunate events occur. This had nothing to do with them being lazy or “choosing” to be homeless. You would be surprised how difficult it is to find work when you don’t have an address or live near a home depot where they pick up illegals every morning. In the end these folks depended on the kindness of friends to get back on their feet. Not everyone has that…

    I’m not for government supporting every slacker out there who doesn’t want to work, but their has to be some manner in which those who do want to get back on their feet can. There is no excuse for the richest country in the world to neglect those at the bottom.

    Thank you for provoking this discussion.

  53. ….and on the giving change topic. How about giving food if you’re worried about someone using the money you give them for drugs?

  54. I work for the homeless and many are not homeless. They cross the border and since they are illegals they come to our clinic to avoid being caught. They even admit to me they don’t want to pay a copay at a regular office. They have jobs, a car and a home. I feel they are taking away from the people who really need it. We turn Vets away (they are supposed to go to the VA(three month waiting list) I hope they live till that appointment. I have met people who were laid off and their jobs given to illegals so the company can cut cost. This is happening more and more everyday. We have found only a small percentage are really homeless and they seem to apprecitate the care we give. The ones who are not, gripe the loudest. (guilt??) The people who don’t or can’t afford a copay can go to regular clinics on a sliding scale that is run by the government. We can end homelessness when we stop giving care to people who don’t need it and using it for people who do.

  55. Benjamin –

    “The biggest contributor to homelessness is economic inequality.”

    This might be the dumbest sentence I’ve read so far this year — and I do a ton of reading. Read what you wrote again. Duh. Homeless people live in poverty! That’s why they are homeless, isn’t it?

    Now, what you really meant probably reflects your political leanings, which is, in your egalitarian determination, that homelessness caused by poverty is somehow UNFAIR. While that is mighty swell of you to point out to the rest of us, “economic equality” has never been a part of our government’s charter nor a thread in the fabric of our society. We live in a capitalist meritocracy, not Marxist communism — and thank your deity for that.

    EQUAL RIGHTS before the law, on the other hand, is a cornerstone of our government’s charter and is tightly woven throughout the fabric of our society. Equal rights before the law is what makes a huge difference between America and most other countries out there, and is absolutely critical to our success as a functioning society. That, and PROPERTY RIGHTS. But, while our government grants us equal rights before the law at birth, any other sense of “equality” — especially economic — is out the window as soon as we are out of the womb. What happens after that depends on our development environment and our own innate intelligence and talents. We can hardly control for these factors among 300 million people. Hell, China claims to be communist (it’s not) and it cannot control for these factors across upwards of 2 billion people. They, unlike you apparently, have learned that “economic equality” is pure fantasy.

    For some babies it may very well be UNFORTUNATE that they are born to one or more unintelligent and talentless parents, but it is hardly UNFAIR — we all faced that same exact risk as soon as our DNA formed in our mothers’ wombs. You or I could have just as easily been formed in the womb of a woman in the Sudan or in a poverty-stricken slum in a developing country (with no equal rights or property rights, I might add). Life at birth on this planet is purely a roll of the dice. Blame that on evolution or your deity, take your pick. It doesn’t really matter — it is the way it is, like it or not.

    Do not blame this UNFORTUNATE situation on any form of government, and certainly PLEASE, I beseech you, do not ask the government to get involved and to expropriate BILLIONS of tax dollars from the rest of us to “solve” it just because you feel sorry for those in UNFORTUNATE situations. In fact, billions of tax dollars have already been spent over decades on the issue of homelessness and, as we can all see in every major urban American city every day, homelessness continues to persist.

    “The reality is that many who are homeless were productive members of society who experienced some catastrophic event and lost everything.”

    That’s true. It is also a reality that a large percentage of homeless people were productive members of society who also drank too much, did too much drugs, got fired from their jobs for being under the influence or not showing up for work, borrowed money from friends and family and never paid them back, crashed at friends and family homes until they wore out their welcome through laziness, rudeness, and joblessness, and burned bridges with pretty much everyone in their inner circle due to their own self-selected anti-social behavior. In short, a long string of bad decisions, choices, and actions have put many homeless people where they are today. While catastrophic events are unfortunate (despite being in most cases preventable, avoidable, and insurable and therefore needlessly unfortunate), homelessness due to anti-social behavior and general sloth is not unfair, unfortunate, your fault, my fault, or society’s fault. It is simply a consequence of said behavior and sloth.

    “Believe it or not Claire but we are all “one paycheck away from homelessness”.”

    While it makes for a nice cliche that suits a certain empathetic political agenda, your statement is 100% completely false. I am not one paycheck away from homelessness therefore we are not ALL one paycheck away from homelessness. I seriously doubt that you are one paycheck away from homelessness either. You could probably get along for a few months of no paychecks if you really had to. If you cannot, then you seriously need to re-evaluate your lifestyle to determine if you are living too far above your means. You may be spending at a faster rate than you can afford on your current income. Such a situation is not so much a factor of income as it is a lack of will power. We have freedom of choice in our (non-incarcerated) lives in America. Spending, saving, and investing are all free choices. Those choices have consequences. The choice of saving and investing can lead to financial security, an emergency fund, a nest egg, and personal wealth. The choice of spending beyond one’s means can lead high debt levels, court judgments, bankruptcy, and yes, homelessness. Note that homelessness can be a consequence of the freedom of choice.

    “Do some people make bad decisions that put them in this situation? Yes, but you can’t tell me that someone working for minimum wage and supporting a child could save money in a 401k if they didn’t “make excuses for themselves”.”

    I’m emotionally moved by your example, but back up a second. Having children is a lifestyle choice. What is a person who only has the skills of a minimum wage worker doing bringing another human being into this world if he or she cannot responsibly rear and provide for said human being in the first place? No one put a gun to the worker’s head and said “Procreate!” The worker had dozens of choices that, had they been taken as a responsible, other-oriented person would have taken them, could have precluded the birth of that new human being in the first place.

    Why do you not see the worker’s (potentially selfish) behavior as being irresponsible and perhaps even immoral, or at least inhumane? What kind of person freely elects to knowingly bring an innocent human being into a world of relative poverty and misery when they could just as freely elect not to? Why did the worker not choose to wait (delay self-gratification?) to bring another human being into this world until they knew they had developed enough marketable skills to afford to do so and provide for that new human being in a positive and caring way? Should we really feel sorry for the worker in your example then? Shouldn’t we be frowning upon the innocent child’s predicament at the hands of a seemingly thoughtless and possibly selfish adult? Could not the adult’s poor choice of having a child in a low income environment eventually lead to the child’s eventual homelessness? Whose fault would that be then? Again, it’s not your choice, my choice, or our government’s choice. It was the individual’s choice — a poor choice that could lead to homelessness and that could have been completely avoided had the individual taken a host of other viable choices except that one.

    While I have sympathy for the child in your example, I am less inclined to shed a tear for the worker who is working at an hourly wage that, anyway, represents a good bit more than the DAILY wage of an average adult in India, Zimbabwe, and many other countries throughout Africa and Asia. Unlike you, I do not feel that such a comparison is irrelevant — to me, it means all the difference in the world. Any worker working at any wage in America is blessed to have been born in or somehow made it to America. If only billions of other indigent and oppressed human beings living outside of America could be so lucky!

  56. I like the signs that say ‘homeless people’ better than the ones that just say ‘homeless’. The latter seem to encourage exactly the kind of thinking the signs are supposed to be discouraging.

  57. I love these signs and would like to see move and not just in Toronto. We have homeless people all over Canada and this really needs to be addressed.

    On July 31, 2007 a committee that I am a member will be addressing this same issue. We are going to be SLEEPING UNDERNEATH THE VICTORIA BRIDGE in Saskatoon along with the other homeless to, hopefully, make a statement. We are also looking into doing a fundraiser to build a homeless shelter here. PLEASE show your support to our cause by writing the politicians in your area.

    My family and I were just about homeless but now we are staying with my family. But that can’t do on forever because if I am in that house too long I end up at the hospital. I have worked 30 years in my hometown of Saskatoon only to get very sick and divorced. Now I am living way below the poverty level from no real fault of my own.

    Not all homeless people are that way because they have an addiction. The only addiction I did have was to smoking which I had to quit because I could no longer breath and smoke at the same time. Not all of us think we are going to end up in poverty. I have a degree in Accounting but am not able to find work because I get so sick.

    No one wants to live like this and that is why I have started getting involved with this important issue. I need to help myself in anyway possible and that is what we also need to teach other people. If you feel that you don’t matter then you lose hope and can end up with a lot of other problems like addictions. It is hard to see your kids going through poverty when they have never experienced it before. I can’t always fix the pain and loneliness that they feel when I feel it too sometimes. I can only do the best that I can and hope my good works touches them to be strong as well.

    There will be some people that will take advantage of the system but we should not penalize everyone for a few bad apples. And those people will be held accountable one day but what about the “real homeless people” right now.

  58. “Now I am living way below the poverty level from no real fault of my own.”

    Hello??? Earth to Roberta! Earth to Roberta!

    Which of these two actions did someone put a gun to your head and force you to go through with:

    – Voluntary abandonment of a legal marriage commitment through a divorce?
    – Voluntary nasty and risky habit of cigarette smoking about which you knew before you started could cause you respiratory problems and lung cancer and not to mention harm your precious children through second-hand smoke inhalation?

    Where exactly in this sad, dramatic tale are any of your problems the fault of anyone else besides you — especially the Saskatoon and Canadian governments and the taxpayers and voters who enable them to function?

    It sounds to me like you need to spend more time focusing on the immediate plight of your children than on piously “making a statement” by hanging out with random strangers living under some bridge in Saskatoon. Get a grip on reality, Roberta, and stop making excuses for yourself. Forget about those people hanging out under the bridge — focus like a laser on providing independent economic support to your children so that they can be in a position to make better life decisions than you have. Should not that be where your greatest personal responsibility should fall?


  59. I actually feel sorry for you because you sound so bitter. I can’t imagine what kind of number someone has done on you. But I need to clarify something”s that you obviously assumed.

    -I DIDN’T NOT leave my marriage voluntarily; he left me because he could not deal with my sickness anymore.
    -Getting diseases like breast cancer has anything to do with smoking.

    I am sure that you have not always made the RIGHT DECISIONS ALL THE TIME. It is hard to imagine someone else’s lifestyle until you have walked a mile in their shoes. I too had to work for everything that I got. There were times when I held down 2 full time jobs and I loved it. At least my children see what I am doing is trying to find a solution instead of sitting on the couch complaining or bitter about it. And they wanted me to tell you that they are very pride of my efforts.

    It is very easy to preach without all the facts. Do victims of crimes deserve what they get? When people get M.S. is it just because they did not live a perfect and proper lifestyle? Some things are beyond our control and you can never prepare for them.

    I think it is wonderful the achievements you have made but there may come a day when even that is not enough for you. I do hope that you never have to deal with an unbearable disease where there is no cure.

  60. Roberta,

    No, I am not bitter at all and no, no one has done anything wrong to me. I am a happy person. I’ve just grown weary of people making excuses to get out of their accountability for their own decisions and actions and then ask various governments to expropriate money from the rest of us through taxes to “help” them.

    Nonetheless, you are right. I did make an assumption that the illness was related to your smoking habit and the divorce was voluntary instead of involuntary due to a cowardly, non-supportive man. I sincerely hope that a judge is making him pay support to you and your children after having abandoned you all. And, I hope that he is paying that support. I apologize for my incorrect assumptions and misplaced comments.


  61. very, very nice. taking the obvious but unspoken and speaking it. sometimes it takes a lot of courage to say what we all know but don’t want to hear.

  62. Art is due to provoke some visceral reaction. That’s the whole point, is it not?
    Good job!

  63. Complicated issue – no absolutes here and obviously not a shortage of opinions. We can quote facts in America…The hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment in an average American city is $11.12, 30 percent of those experiencing homelessness are children, and $45,000 constitutes the median household income – anything below that is considered low income. No easy solutions – but we human beings are quick to blame and point fingers, aren’t we?

  64. So this thread is still going.

    One thing is for sure – like pigeons, the more you give to panhandlers, the more will come.

    They do it because they can and because it’s profitable. Like any group there is variance within. Some had bad luck. Some are ill. Some are sociopaths. Some are addicts. And some are just kids who may well have a good home in a distant suburb.

    Point is – if you give them money they will come. If you don’t they won’t.

  65. I was, & am technically homeless. The only reason im fortonate to post here is because someone took the time to help me off the street. Now, I make min wage & can afford to rent a room. I can’t afford to move out on my own, nor can I afford to goto school. I have tried appying for student loans & tried to get assistance to help, but of course, they really don’t have the time or the money. Most of them do the best they can, but the system our government created helps the rich stay rich & the poor get poorer. And for anyone wondering why I would want to goto school. Maybe because I grew up & learned how to fix computers all self taught. But because I lack the money to get certified, I don’t get much business. I’ve lucked into the odd job here & there, but people also want to see papers. Nice to know that we live in a world where even if you know how to do something, you have to pay money just to be allowed to do it. If it wasn’t for people who are willing to help (like this guy posting the signs & the people willing to take a risk & let me fix their computer) I would be stuck just making rent. But luckily, I get the odd computer job here & there, so maybe if I keep walking, & riding the bus, and living out of one small room, eventually I too will be able to afford an education.

  66. Hi Mark,
    I found this art project to be a HUGE social statement! I absolutely love it! I am curious to see what it could do to change social policy concerning the homeless.
    I am mostly concerned with the social policies that deal with the mentally ill turned loose and now homeless.
    Of course many substance abusers are self medicating for mental illness and thus should be recieving the dual dignosis treatment.
    In any case I am also working on a thesis. I would like to do a thesis statement on the effects of acknowledging the homeless people and how it will impact the population.
    If you have any statistics or information I could use I would certainly appreciate it.
    Thank you.

  67. I’ve lived in a city with a huge homeless population. I used to give some money to the more polite ones. Later I lived in a 3rd World country for more than 5 years where actual poverty is all around you.

    People who are actually desperate and starving, and where they will STARVE if you don’t help them. Many do die every day.

    This is a completely different situation to what we have in the West where 99% of the homeless are drug users and form gangs of organised crime led by their dealers.

    Drug addiction is self inflicted, and I have no sympathy what-so-ever for people who are surrounded by opportunity like we have in the West.

    Why should we help them when they won’t help themselves?

    The homeless just have bad genetic code, being more prone to addiction, mental illness, depression and anti social behaviour. This is just Darwin’s way of showing us who is scum.

    The police should put out “bad” crack on the streets. That would soon whittle out those who are waste of space and those who are actually deserving of our sympathy and charity.

  68. This displays misguided thinking that will create even more problems…

    The best approach for homeless people is to provide addiction counseling and medical services, while encouraging them to get off the streets, and at the same time acknowledging that there are no easy solutions to drug addiction and mental illness.

    There are no effective treatment programs for drug addicts other than letting them hit rock bottom, when they begin to seek help. Until then, all attempts at help simply enable the addict to continue with the vice.

    Mentally ill people fall into a whole other category, and they do need very active interventions to encourage medical treatment. Unfortunately, this is hard to achieve in a democratic society with non-compliance the main stumbling block.

    Putting up signs such as these is political and will only serve to polarize the public, and this will do more harm than good to the homeless.

    Allowing the homeless to dominate the landscape in a city center is worse than avoiding their plight.

  69. I’m 100% in support of providing addiction counseling and medical services to the homeless — as long as it does not involve using our tax dollars to do so.

  70. Hi everyone. I am a Master’s Student studying Journalism in Wales. I often travel to Toronto as it’s a place pretty close to my heart, and which I particularly enjoy visiting. As part of my work I am doing a series of feature pieces on the issue of homelessness and how it’s perceived by Toronto residents. I’ve read quite a lot of what has been said on this site (among others) and have got some quite startling statistics and opinions. What I am looking for really though – and this is where I am asking for any help – is generally why there is such a homeless problem in Toronto compared to other cities, and specifically if there is a general accepted perspective of why this is the case, or whether there actually lie a lot of conflict regarding the origins of the problem, and the attribution of blame.
    If anyone could let me know via here why they think Toronto specifically has a problem, who the finger can be pointed at, and any ideas about solving it, I’d be really very grateful.
    Thanks in advance.

  71. Pippa, in Toronto it’s a story of cuts to the entire social safety net from 1995-2003 during the Mike Harris/Ernie Eves provincial governments. Cuts were made to social assistance, public education and post-secondary education, and minimum wage was frozen, too. Toronto is also a “magnet city” for people who need social services from across the Greater Toronto Area and Canada as a whole because, though we are under-serviced, it’s still better than most other places. And, worst of all, a scandelously low number of affordable housing units have been funded/built by all levels of government (approximately 70,000 families are on the waiting list for affordable housing in Toronto) since the mid-1990s.

    Two resources I would recommend are the Wellesley Institute (a Toronto-based urban health think tank) and a book by New Democratic Part of Canada leader Jack Layton (published when he was a Toronto city councillor and president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities) called Homelessness: The Making and Unmaking of a Crisis. It’s available on here. You might also contact Cathy Crowe, a street nurse who has been a prominent anti-poverty activist in Toronto for many years. Her contact info is here.

  72. Thank you, Adam. That’s all a great help to me. Thanks for taking the time to do that.

  73. I think this project is absolutely excellent. I don’t actually live in TO, I’m from London, but we have our share of homeless, too.
    In fact, I know a lot of homeless people, I have homeless friends.

    And not a single one of them wants to be there.

    A lot of them go through job training. Many actually have jobs, but still can’t get enough money together to get a place to stay. Many, but not all, smoke, but quite a few of them don’t drink, or do drugs.

    So when people suggest that they want to be there, that it’s all their fault, etc., I feel sick.

    This project was great, I’m so thankful for it. It really makes homelessness a little more visible to the general public.


  74. Please bring these signs to Washington D.C. We really need them.

  75. Kinn –

    How can you say you have homeless friends? That’s an oxymoron. What kind of friend to the homeless are you if you allow them to remain homeless? Why not invite them in to your household where they can live, sleep, eat and bathe like decent human beings?

    Or were you just trying to sound hip and cool with all the liberals on here by saying you have homeless friends? If so, that’s pretty pathetic.

  76. hey guys, first off i gotta congrats to the sign maker for getting peoples attention…im new to the street and im quite young…i by no means CHOOSE this lifestyle…but i am stuck with it at the time being due to some bad decisions in the past. When i was still living the normal life like you guys…i must admit i never paid attention to the homeless guys nor contributed to them in any major way…which i now regret..what you say abotu the booze and drugs is true to a certain extent…but you must KNOW there is the select few (group) of people whom honestly want to get off the street asap and is trying/doign everything towards that goal..but its hard to be presentble or employable when you have no place to return to and keep yourslef clean and to be reachble as previouse poster said…you’d probably disagree with this…but having lived both lives…being homeless…is just SOOO different you must experience it yourself before you say anything…where as before the highlight of my day was when i was done my school work…now its just wheres my next meal…its hard to dig yourslef outta this..not impposible mind you…but hard…so take it easy on us guys…you mught very well find yourself on the street as well…(hell it happened to me).

  77. hi.

    in order to get people involved with homeless charities, be it donating
    time or money, you must first get them interested in homelessness as a

    my website is currently online for testing purposes only at present,
    though i will be looking to launch it in a couple of months from now.

    should you want to assist with getting people to think about the homeless
    situation, which may or may not lead to active involvement and or
    donations, kindly spread the word about my site.

    i do not need your help… homeless people do.

    sincerely yours,


  78. To all of you out there who are complaining about homeless people and making numerous ignorant remarks about them just needing to take some initiative and get a job or implying that they are all on hard drugs, I feel truly sorry for each of you and your intellectual shortcomings.

    You have no right to judge let alone make flippant remarks as to how these people can help themselves when you obviously have no context within which to make these unfounded remarks.

    So until the day when you actually go out and recognize the humanity of this disenfranchised group by actually having a discussion with one of them, keep your baised opinions to yourself.

    On another note, I strongly urge everyone who has been effected by this installation to stop and take a minute to chat with the next homeless person you see.

    I have spent the past few years fostering friendships with my local homeless neighbours. In fact, I invited one of my friends to live with me temporarily until we can get him settled in his own place with the aid of a strong support network.

    Wouldn’t you do the same for any other friend who fell on hard times?

  79. Thank you, Jen. very well said.
    Your actions help make our city a better place to live for those of us on — or off it’s streets.

  80. Fiona,

    Unfortunately, this was just ant art installation and was removed shortly thereafter.

  81. It is very sad for me to see the typical western “so called” enlightened point of view here. Just because you pay taxes and have a warm home does not give you the right to look down on people and exclude them from social space.
    In “eastern” societies I believe, people help each other more through times of poverty and hunger. Why, that is another question which should be discussed in another blog.

    I congrulate the artist Mark Day for his innovative work.

    And I am sending all you people warm regards from Turkey, in case you don’t know, is not just an animal you eat on Thanksgiving, also a country which the beloved new president is about to visit.

  82. I have seen posts above about the U.S. giving a salary to everyone…in case you didn’t realize….we, under the Clinton admin. inadvertently created this worldwide trough in this economic business cycle….worldwide for a good amount of countries with some amount of free trade. Under our Obama admin. we have just gone through another 2 trilion in debt…shouldn’t we all as Americans be homless? haha, soon enough the Chineese will want their bond money back and you Canadians will be making signs for us….

  83. Wow, talk about sparking a discussion! 🙂 What a great and interesting project by Mark and a great job sharing/reviewing it by Shawn. What strange timing for me to just be hearing about this now 😀


  84. today in toronto i saw a homeless man with a dog. by 6 .30 pm he had covered the dog with a blanket.i stopped to pat the dog and say hello .wonder how the dog copes up with the toronto cold….I only wish the dog and the owner get to a warm place at night.And praay that they never get separated

  85. Those were some awesome sign I must say, what a great way to catch people’s attention and give some second thoughts about the homeless’ situation!

    That with combination with the song “Fly Home” I just found makes for an evening of thought:

    I can’t but feel grateful that a lot of people in this thread have such a good view on the subject of the homeless… 🙂

  86. While I appreciate the heart-felt pity for the homeless prevalent in this blog, I’m certain many of you don’t live near homeless shelters. The area east of St James cathedral to the Don River has more shelters per square block than the rest of the province. Try living here for a year and see how sorry you’ll be for the homeless. The ‘caring for the homeless business’ also supports drug dealing, filth and crime. Go to St James park at 6am and see the drug dealing and merry-making…it’s quite astonishing. The homeless trade their drugs, get all revved up on pills and drink, relieve themselves in the park, destroy the plants and then get fed by the roving Salvation Army truck. It’s quite a scene. Enough of my rant….but believe me, the city has made homeless a business.