In January 1998, I was glued to the television, watching the gruelling ice storm in Quebec and Eastern Ontario. I seriously contemplated going to help; the emergency shelter conditions and health needs I saw on the TV news coverage were so dire that they reflected what I was doing in Toronto. As soon as I made the decision to go, I was hit with a wave of emotion — my gut told me something was seriously wrong. I realized that to go was to deny that homeless people here, in Toronto, were also living in a disaster. A disaster that had no natural cause. I was overcome with grief and nausea as I realized that all the signs of an acute disaster (like the ice storm farther east) were present; a rapid rise in people de-housed, worsening health, increased infections, suffering and exhaustion.

But for homeless people, the power and heat were not going to suddenly turn back on. Conditions were not going to inevitably improve, freeing them to return home. Their emergency shelter stay was not short-term. There would be no compensation plan to reimburse them for their loss, no emergency re-housing plan either.