[Anglican Journal (Anglican Church of Canada)] “Everybody lost a lot of friends out here,” says an Indigenous elder who gives his name simply as Dave.
He’s sitting on a bench outside Holy Trinity Church in Toronto, where he has both relied on the church’s services for unhoused and street-involved people over the past two years and taken a leading role in helping provide them.
He and Eddy, another volunteer from the community, say the pandemic and its knock-on effects have added new layers of difficulty and danger for street-involved people. Dave says he has lost friends in the past two years — not just to COVID, but also to opioid drugs.
“We went through a lot of those narco kits,” he says, referring to the naloxone kits he uses to rescue people dying from opioid overdoses. “I hate carrying those, because every time I end up using them.”
Data from the city of Toronto back up what Dave describes: more homeless people have been dying each year in Toronto since the pandemic began. Advocates for the unhoused say it’s difficult to get reliable statistics, but official numbers record the deaths of 128 people in 2019, 144 in 2020, 221 in 2021 and 92 as of June 2022. The proportion of those who died of drug toxicity as opposed to other causes rose from 30% in 2019 to 53% in 2020 and 60% in 2021.