Homeless Nigerian found dead outside shelter

By Lincoln DePradine

Mayor Patrick Brown and members of Broamptom’s Black community

The ongoing housing crisis facing Ontarians, particularly Black refugees and asylum-seekers, has reached a new low with the death of one man, who was sleeping outside a shelter on Dundas Street East in Mississauga.

“It is beyond comprehension that we allow this to happen. When I got the news of the fatality, my heart broke,’’ said Patrick Brown, mayor of Brampton

Clergyman Eddie Jjumba, who is among several Black community volunteers helping the Africans since their plight was made public in July after they were found on the streets of Toronto, said the deceased man was Nigerian.

“It’s a sad day. It’s a gloomy day and it’s a day that we had hoped would never come,’’ said Jjumba, who volunteers at Dominion Church International in Toronto.

Repeated calls have been made, all across the Greater Toronto Area, for more support from all levels of government for asylum-seekers and refugees.

Mayor Brown has reported that, on average in his city, there are between 46 to 150 asylum claimants sleeping outside every night.

(From left) Gwyneth Chapman, Mayor Patrick Brown and Zanana Akande

“Our shelter capacity is at 321 per cent. We have capacity for 500 and we’re almost at 1,500,” he said.

“We’re calling on our partners in other levels of government, particularly the federal government, to help,” Brown added. “I hope that we get that help as quickly as possible.’’

According to the mayor, “we’ve just heard excuses from other levels of government that help is on its way. It’s going to come, but it hasn’t yet’’.

Brown said an emergency report will be presented to Peel Regional Council on Thursday, November 23, outlining past efforts and seeking approval to implement new and immediate solutions to the shelter crisis.

In July, after nearly 200 African refugees and asylum-seekers were discovered sleeping on city sidewalks outside a homeless support centre in downtown Toronto, a coalition of individuals and groups from the Black community, including churches, stepped up to volunteer and provided them with shelter, food and clothing.

Sleeping on the street is “completely unacceptable’’, said Gwyneth Chapman, one of the volunteers.

Chapman, who attended a recent news conference with other volunteers and Mayor Brown, is upset at the death of the Nigerian man.

“I am so full of anger and disappointment,’’ said Chapman, who also is senior advisor in the City of Brampton’s Black, African and Caribbean Social, Cultural and Economic Empowerment and Anti-Black Racism Unit.

“If you have any tinge of humanity or compassion in you, you would be as livid, as hurt and as angry as all of us have been.’’

Chapman told The Caribbean Camera that the volunteer work on behalf of the homeless will continue, and promised that details of their plan will soon be forthcoming.

“I am urging everyone with a heart to come together, to work together, to continue to build this country that’s known for embracing all people,’’ she said.

Zanana Akande, the 86-year-old former Ontario cabinet minister, has been in the forefront of advocating for the African refugees and asylum-seekers.

“I insist that the governments stop making speeches and start doing something practical,’’ said Akande.