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posted May 10, 2005

LOST SOULS AT THE PARK AND THE FEAR OF STRANGERS

Any big city has lost souls, and they sometimes come to parks (or even try to live there). We remember Mimo, an older Italian man who used to stuff cardboard down the menís toilet because Jesus told him to, and who even took down his pants at the playground water fountain once so he could wash his privates (itís hard to keep clean if youíre homeless, harder if you hear voices). On that occasion the staff chased him away fast (after getting him to put his pants back up), and as for the toilets, we had to keep the menís washroom locked for two summers because it was so expensive to have the plumber here every week. Eventually park friend Judy Simutis helped track down Mimoís story, and we discovered that some restaurants on College Streets had been giving Mimo food and shoes and blankets for years, which is why he was so lively despite his lostness.

Finding out more often leads to a solution. We were able to connect Mimo with mental health workers Walter Brierley and Moira Hynes, who worked with great ingenuity and compassion to get Mimo into a shelter and, later, into a retirement home in the Beaches that seems to suit him well.

Every few years the park seems to get one or two new lost souls. Being strangers at the beginning, they often worry people. Sometimes the police are called for strange behaviour, but the police canít usually do much about it, other than taking the person out for an hour or a day. The park staff are equipped to follow up over the long term, however, and so are some park friends. If a park stranger frightens or concerns you with strange behaviour, try to find a park staff person. Theyíll find out more about the person, and see if there are ways to fix any problems the person may be causing. If you have a cell phone, you can also call the rink house - 416 392-0913 - or park friend <b>Jutta Mason</b> at home - 416 533-0153. Dufferin Grove Park is solid enough that it can carry a few lost souls at a time, with some good effort.


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