Officers, Auxiliaries and community members camped out overnight in front of 11 Division on Nov. 7, as part of Warm4Winter, an initiative spearheaded by Superintendent Heinz Kuck to raise awareness of homelessness.
Participants gathered around candles to share their reflections on the issue and why they were choosing to take part in the campaign.
For Sergeant Sal Granata, the homeless issue really hit home when he came across someone he knew who was living on the streets.
“Life can change and you don’t know what tomorrow brings,” said Granata, wrapped up in a sleeping bag as he got ready to sleep out for the night.
For Detective Jason Waters, it was about being more empathetic to those he encountered on the job. “As a detective at 11 Division, I encounter a lot of people who have committed offences which may be minor… because they are disenfranchised. They make decisions based on life circumstances and, try as we may, we are privileged to put ourselves in their shoes,” said Waters.
Warm4Winter was not just a way to raise awareness, but also to collect donations. The team collected over 2,000 pounds of clothes, boots, blankets, hats and gloves along with over $2,000 in gift-card donations. All of this will be distributed to social service agencies in 11 Division.
“I am so proud of my community and officers at 11 Division,” said Kuck. “They’ve rallied together, yet again, and without missing a beat they joined together to gather over 2000 pounds of clothing.”
In August, Kuck and officers at 11 Division collected more than 7,000 pounds of food items to give to food banks.
“In the summertime, no one went hungry on our watch and in the winter time no one is going to go cold,” said Kuck.
I am so proud of my community and officers at 11 Division. They’ve rallied together, yet again, and without missing a beat they joined together to gather over 2000 pounds of clothing
He said that looking at the homeless population in his Division, if he was unable to provide shelter he could certainly provide clothing. “That’s what the job is all about,” said the Superintendent.
Amongst the dozen or so people camping out for the night was City Councillor Sarah Doucette who said, perhaps, it was time to re-examine the issue of homelessness. “Maybe shelters aren’t the way to do it, maybe we should be putting money in apartments, maybe we should be giving people a roof to put over their heads,” said the Ward 13 councillor.
For Linda Martin, co-chair of the CPLC, it was also a way to educate people on the things they ignore on a daily basis, “Although you live in Bloor West Village, there are things you are not seeing or acknowledging,” said Martin.
Detective Stella Karras said that Warm4Winter was also a way to dispel the misunderstanding on why people are homeless. “People think that people just choose to be on the street, ‘oh we have got shelters and they don’t want to go.’”
She said many homeless are intimidated by shelters and feel they can be robbed or attacked, leading them to choose to sleep rough.
As temperatures dropped to the lowest of the season, Karras said she felt like she had been outdoors forever, whereas it had been only two hours, “and it’s not even close to winter,” exclaimed the detective.
Inspector Eddie Roseto added that, in the last 34 years of his career as a police officer, the job had changed dramatically. It was less about enforcement and more about helping. “There are a lot of people out there going through tough times…and we are here to help them.”
Amongst others camping out were Auxiliary officers Brain Godfrey and Darren Lawrence and 11 Division officers Detective Robert Tajti and Training Sergeant Harjit Nijjar.
All the participants not only camped out for the entire night, they also helped with collecting donations said Kuck.