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Death of Clark Sissons highlights vulnerability of older men on the streets

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Clark Sissons was known as a quiet and tidy man who kept to himself and loved poetry and literature.

A four-year resident of a transitional housing program run out of the former New Edwin Hotel, he was also described as thoughtful and a hard-worker, who treated people with respect and had been employed as a teacher.

Last week, Sissons, 67, was counted as the 84th homicide in Toronto in 2018. He was found behind a community centre in the east end in the morning hours of Oct. 5. Allan Alexander MacDonald, 57, was arrested on Tuesday. He has been charged with second-degree murder.

A spokesperson for Haven Toronto said Sissons and MacDonald were both clients of the daytime drop-in on Jarvis St. that provides meals and social supports to older men. The Star has not confirmed if or how well the men knew each other.

What made Sissons uniquely vulnerable, or at increased risk of violence, was the combined factors of his age and struggles with alcohol and experiences with homelessness, or being precariously housed. While the bulk of people who use emergency shelters are men, between the ages of 25 and 49, the number of people at age 65 and above who use shelters is rising, according to 2016 research published through the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.

The place where Sissons lived and was working to rebuild his life is the site of the First Step to Home transitional housing program, run by WoodGreen Community Services, at 650 Queen St. E. The former hotel holds 28 self-contained bachelor units with full kitchens and the program serves men ages 55 and older.

“So many of these folks are so vulnerable, particularly when they are out on the street and programs like ours really give them a place to call home — even if it is on a transitional basis,” said program manager Thomas Krause, who knew Sissons for about a year and a half.

Their clients have all been street involved and have struggled with addiction or mental health issues, said Krause, who explained that as part of the transitional housing program the men can also see in-house social workers. There are also regular visits from a registered nurse.

Krause said Sissons was very pleasant and polite and had told him that he had worked as an English teacher. During most days he was away from the property, often finding work as a day labourer, he said.

“For the most part, throughout the program, he kept to himself,” Krause said. “He was really fond of reading books and poetry and different literature.”

Online records from the Ontario College of Teachers show that a Clark Franklin Sissons completed the professional education program offered through the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto in 1982.

Krause said during the time he knew him, Sissons struggled with alcohol use, but was working towards getting his life back together. He said his death has shocked fellow residents.

“There were ups and downs for sure, but overall he was doing quite well,” said Krause, who would not say if MacDonald had used the program.

They will be holding a private memorial, something they do each time anybody who is part of the program dies, to give people a chance to share memories and debrief. The date has not been set.

Haven Toronto, the drop-in where Sissons and MacDonald may have crossed paths, provides services for older men, up to their late 80s. The drop-in runs from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., 365 days a year and they serve 250 to 400 men every day.

Executive director Lauro Monteiro said Sissons became a client at Haven in June. MacDonald started using services in 2010.

Monteiro said extreme violence is an all too common reality for the people they serve. There have been at least four men lost to homicide since he joined the agency in 2010 and assaults are extremely common, he said.

“Older men particularly are extremely vulnerable and are usually victims of assault and a number of other crimes. They are frail, they are older and they are quite frankly targets for younger people looking to victimize the community,” Monteiro said.

Monteiro said men who experience chronic homelessness can be as many as 15 years older than their chronological age because of the compounded stresses caused by addiction, mental health issues, illness, violence, exposure and neglect.

Haven staff will be speaking with clients and checking if they need help finding additional support services, he said. The men are part of a tight community and this news, he said, will hurt and likely cause anger.

“The last time this happened a lot of the guys were really upset. It forces them to confront their own mortality. They really do look out for each other.”

The last time Monteiro was referring to was 2016, when a fight between several men near the St. Lawrence market resulted in the death of 50-year-old Paul Crombie, who was described as having no fixed address.

Levon Jolen Gammon, also of no fixed address, was charged with manslaughter.

Monteiro said older men who come to experience homelessness later in life usually do so because of trauma or financial losses. Once inside the system they often also stay longer than younger men, he said.

“Increasingly what we are seeing is economic reasons for people being homeless. Often people don’t come to us with mental health issues, but it grinds on them,” and struggles with mental health are often the result, he said.

“It really weighs on these guys and that is unique to this population.”

Emily Mathieu is a Toronto-based reporter covering affordable and precarious housing. Follow her on Twitter: @emathieustar



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Queen’s University homecoming marred by large, unsanctioned street party – Kingston

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Queen’s University homecoming is an opportunity for past graduates of the school to catch up and reminisce.

Heather Kellington-Dudley, a 1968 arts graduate, says that’s what she was doing when she arrived in Kingston on Friday and toured the university campus.

“I just walked around the old campus and thought, ‘I don’t remember those trees being so tall. I don’t remember the buildings being misplaced. How come I can’t find my way around?’” she said.

There are dozens of events taking place at the university over the weekend.

Saturday’s big draw was the Queen’s Golden Gaels football game against the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

Sarah Indewey, head of Alumni Relations at Queen’s, says the events are set to continue through the evening.

“We have the reunion street festival coming back for its fourth year, (a) very exciting headliner — the Sam Roberts Band — and in addition to Sam Roberts, there’s also some students and alumni bands that will be playing beforehand,” she said.

Indewey says 3,700 alumni registered in advance for homecoming celebrations, with many more registering once they arrived at the university.

However, the unsanctioned street party that has been taking place along Aberdeen and Johnson streets, spilling onto University Avenue, is not part of the official celebrations.

Hundreds of revelers were on the streets before 10 a.m., drinking and partying.


READ MORE:
Dalhousie braces for homecoming weekend

Shortly after 11 a.m., Kingston police closed Aberdeen Street to traffic, Staff Sgt. Brian Pete told Global Kingston.

“We were unable to keep Johnson Street from University sort of eastbound — we had to close that down because someone was definitely going to be hit by a car,” he said.

Pete says police are disappointed with the volume of people partying on the streets just north of the university campus.

“There was a significant amount of work done pre-homecoming with lots of different partners, including ourselves, the city, Queen’s, alumni relations and many more,” he added.


READ MORE:
Police, university ready to enforce new party bylaw for Queen’s homecoming

Kingston Fire and Rescue and Frontenac County Paramedic Services were kept busy throughout Saturday responding to numerous calls.

According to Pete, there have been several injuries reported.

“I’m unaware right now of the significance of (the injuries), but some of them were from flying projectiles — I believe glass bottles,” he said.

Pete says there was also a report of an individual falling.

“We had an issue of a shed today on Aberdeen Street; I don’t think it collapsed but I think someone fell off it,” he said.

A five-year downward trend on alcohol-related arrests during the unsanctioned street parties may be coming to an end.

Police will have an even greater presence overnight, as the street party is usually larger at night than during the day.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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Political dynasties at stake as B.C. voters cast ballots in municipal elections

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Some political dynasties are at stake in Metro Vancouver as municipal elections take place across British Columbia today — the country’s first municipal elections of the year.

CBC News will have full coverage throughout the day, including local radio specials in the evening starting when polls close at 8 p.m. PT, as well as live coverage on Facebook and extensive resources on our website. 

This is the first province-wide municipal vote since new campaign finance rules that limit corporate and union donations were implemented last fall. 

It’s also an election that will see big change in some Metro Vancouver cities, where more than a dozen long-term mayors are not seeking re-election.

But even in cities where incumbents remain, there is potential for major change as residents struggle with rapid growth, a housing crisis, ongoing gang conflict and transportation woes. 

(Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Change coming for Vancouver

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was one of the first to announce he would no longer be in the seat he has held for a decade.

Robertson says he has no regrets as he leaves behind a prosperous city with an extensive cycling network. He also passes along a housing crisis, which affects municipalities across the province, that has been a big issue in the election.  

Robertson’s municipal party, Vision Vancouver, chose not to run a mayoral candidate after the one they had chosen, Ian Campbell, stepped down four days before nominations closed.

Unlike most large cities in Canada, Vancouver doesn’t have a ward system. Instead, politicians form parties that run candidates on council, the school board and park board. Montreal also has municipal political parties.

From left to right: Wai Young, Shauna Sylvester, Kennedy Stewart, Ken Sim and Hector Bremner are some of the mayoral candidates running in Vancouver.

The vacuum left behind after Robertson’s decision not to run ushered in a flood of candidates aligned with nine civic political parties, some of them splinter groups from more established parties, and several candidates running as independents. 

There are 158 candidates on the city’s long ballot — 21 of them vying for top spot. 

Long-term incumbents at risk in Surrey, Burnaby

In Surrey, the region’s second most populated city, Mayor Linda Hepner is also stepping down.

Her party, Surrey First, has been in power for a decade with a stronghold that currently includes all seats on council.

There are eight people running to replace her. Tom Gill is running as Surrey First’s mayoral candidate. Bruce Hayne was with the party but has formed his own, Integrity Now.

And former mayor Doug McCallum has stepped back into the limelight 13 years after he was last in office. 

Candidates for mayor of Surrey are, from top left to bottom right: Pauline Greaves, John Wolanski, Rajesh Jayaprakash, Imtiaz Popat, Doug McCallum, Franç​ois Nantel, Bruce Hayne and Tom Gill. (City of Surrey)

Some of the main issues in Surrey include concerns about an ongoing gang war and whether the city should form its own police force (it’s currently serviced by the RCMP). 

Candidates and voters are also divided over a planned $1.65 billion light rail transit system, with some keen to replace it with the faster SkyTrain system already implemented in parts of Metro Vancouver.

In Burnaby, the epicentre of the country’s battle for and against the Trans Mountain Pipeline, former firefighter Mike Hurley is challenging incumbent mayor Derek Corrigan and his party the Burnaby Citizens Association.

Corrigan has served council for 31 years. He is a staunch opponent to the pipeline. But many have criticized him for « demovictions » that have razed affordable rental homes in favour of new, higher-priced condominiums. 

Hurley, a political novice, is campaigning on a promise of revisiting how the city manages growth.

Victoria and Vancouver Island

In the provincial capital, it’s shaping up to be a three-way contest for the mayor’s chair between incumbent Lisa Helps and two challengers without previous electoral experience: business consultant Stephen Hammond and political consultant Mike Geoghegan.

In 2014, Helps unseated the last mayor, Dean Fortin, by only 89 votes

Victoria has shed its sleepy reputation as home to « newlyweds and nearly deads » and ushered in a more urban, modern vibe.

But the rising popularity of the city has seen skyrocketing rents, pushing housing and affordability to the top of the agenda. How people get around a busier city is also shaping up to be a ballot box issue.

Affordability is a major issue across Vancouver Island, with tent cities popping up throughout the region. 

Okanagan and the Southern Interior

The Okanagan is B.C. ‘s traditional and reliable conservative heartland.

It is changing, however. This election, the municipal campaign in Kelowna is a battle over the city’s identity. And the two men leading the race personify the possibilities.

Colin Basran’s tenure as mayor has been marked by growth and development, but urban problems like homelessness and crime have followed that success.

Kelowna mayoral candidates, from left, Bobby Kennedy, Colin Basran, Bob Schewe and Tom Dyas debated leadership, inclusiveness and the issue of homelessness in an election forum hosted by CBC Kelowna and UBC Okanagan. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Enter Tom Dyas, promising a return to the Okanagan’s more conservative roots — he’s a no-nonsense, tax-cutting, small businessman reminiscent of the valley’s Socred past.

Meanwhile in Penticton and Vernon, the growing homeless population and each city’s response has dominated the discussion.

In smaller communities, where there are few condos and little foreign investment, the election has been fought on the traditional questions of transparency, taxes and accountability.  



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One dead in Kennedy subway station stabbing

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A man is dead after being stabbed in Kennedy subway station Saturday night, Toronto police say.

Toronto paramedics responded to reports of a stabbing inside Kennedy subway station in Scarborough at around 5:15 p.m. When paramedics arrived, they found one man had been seriously injured.

Toronto police say a fight broke out between two men inside the station, with one man receiving stab wounds.

The victim, a 25-year-old man, was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to Toronto paramedics.

Police have arrested one male suspect in the parking lot of Kennedy station. The subway is closed at Kennedy station so the homicide unit can continue their investigation.

Shuttle buses are operating both ways between Warden subway station and Scarborough Centre and picking up and dropping off passengers at Kennedy station.

Marjan Asadullah is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @marjanasadullah



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