Dying from homelessness… outside

Ann-Gaël Whiteman
Open letters Relational health

How many homeless men and women have to die on the streets because of a lack of emergency bed space?

In 2021, the lack of safe and humane places for these people who are part of Us is more critical than ever.

On, November 13, 2021, Elisapie Pootoogook, a 61-year-old Inuit woman, was found dead where she thought she could sleep and spend the night, on the ground, outside, near the construction site of a condo building.

How ironic… Dying from homelessness on the site of a future housing complex. It’s impossible not to remember the story of Raphaël André, who also died of homelessness in January, for the same reasons. Being homeless is not a choice or an option; and neither is dying there.

This is the horrific reality of the lack of emergency beds. Trading emergency beds for seats in warming stations (without diminishing their usefulness and necessity) is a degradation of the services offered to these citizens, who are already suffering deeply. Elisapie and Raphaël both died near the shelters they used and liked; where they felt safe.

Today, La rue des Femmes denounces and mourns the death of Elisapie, a woman, daughter, mother and keeper of the ancestral memory of our country and history. And it is in our modern society that she died, in the cold homelessness of our beautiful city that is Montréal. Living in a state of homelessness, only to die from it. Because of a missing bed. A simple bed… Not so simple after all. Homelessness has its roots in developmental traumas, and therefore early childhood. For La rue des Femmes, the concept of relational health is essential to recognizing, understanding and healing homelessness. Because yes, homelessness must be healed before it can be managed. And healing begins with safely meeting basic vital needs, which include a bed.

Healing homelessness means not dying outside on the cold pavement alone… due to a lack of emergency beds.

Ann-Gaël Whiteman
Coordinator of Jacqueline House
Relational Health Development Advisor

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