There are over a thousand names on Toronto’s Homeless Memorial. Imagine for a moment the magnitude of grief that list of names represents – the family and friends who lost someone they cared about.
We want to take a moment to remember one person who many of us cared about and who meant a lot to OCAP. Al Honen was a 51 year-old Anishinaabe man, a father and a friend.
Al was a member of OCAP for many years and, about 10 or 12 years ago, was on our Executive Committee – the elected leadership body of our organization.
Al first got involved in OCAP during the Mike Harris years. Another OCAP member, Brian, and Al were both staying at Seaton House, Canada’s largest homeless shelter. At that time, Brian was fighting a lot with Seaton House about the conditions there and he recalls “Al was on my side.” So, Brian invited Al to join OCAP.
Al wasn’t afraid to be publicly named when Seaton House refused him a bed when he had flu symptoms in 2009. Seaton House was acting against Toronto Public Health’s advice. Al was concerned for others who would be turned out into the cold and wanted to take action. He had a tough life on the streets, but he always had compassion for other homeless people.
Al was often smiling and cracking jokes. Brian and Al would often panhandle in Yorkville together and Al liked panhandling from famous people. The two of them would tell the stars jokes. Brian would tell jokes about people from Newfoundland – like himself. Al would tell Native jokes. Brian remembers one he would often tell: “you know what the best nation is? A donation.”
Al’s smile always grew biggest when he talked about his daughter.
Over the years, things got harder for Al. He had been on the list for housing for many years but had no hope of getting it. Al told one OCAP member “I’m going to die on the streets.” Al died homeless in a hospital ICU of non-COVID related pneumonia. His daughter was with him in his last moments.
Al, you are missed.