Loading articles...

Advocates want the city to track, protect at-risk homeless

Last Updated Feb 7, 2018 at 11:58 am EDT

Dean Lisowick, who police believe may have been one of the victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur, was homeless and that was part of the reason why he was never reported missing.

Advocates are now calling for the city to track and protect those at risk.

The 47-year-old often stayed at The Scott Mission, Good Shepherd Ministries or the Sanctuary Drop-in.

He was last seen on April 21, 2016.

“We do need a better system for tracking people, who, particularly at the margins, disappear and ultimately, maybe face a tragic end,” Nicki Ward, director of the Church-Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, said.

That tragic end went unnoticed until last week when the police charged McArthur in Lisowick’s murder.

Skeletal remains were found in planter boxes at a home linked to McArthur, but none of them have been identified.

Lisowick’s friend Dane said he knew Dean from the shelter system but hadn’t seen him for almost two years.

“I never knew he was missing, I was wondering why I hadn’t seen him for a while,” Dane said.

“He was just this warm, kind-hearted fella’, if you needed a shirt, he’d give it to you.”

According to Sonia Zyvatkauskas, who works for the city’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, there isn’t a system in place to track those who go missing from the shelter system and a shelter will only report to the police in some cases.

“A shelter may file a missing person’s report with the police in certain circumstances. For example, if a parent in a family shelter didn’t return to look after the children,” Zyvatkauskas explained in an email.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who has been an outspoken advocate for improving the city’s shelter system, said because people often live on the street long-term, they become known to their providers, such as the shelters and public health facilities.

“There is generally somebody who watches out for these individuals,” Wong-Tam explained.

“We don’t ask for ID or personal information. It’s designed to make these services accessible and provide a low threshold, but it also creates a challenge, making it hard to track if somebody goes missing.”

Wong-Tam and Mayor John Tory plan to meet with leaders from the LGBTQ community on Thursday to discuss the relationship between the community and the police.

Correction: A previous version of this story said that remains were identified. They were not.