Home Safe Toronto is part of the Home Safe series of Sky Works documentaries that deal with how Canadian families
live with the threat and experience of homelessness. In the context of increasing economic and job insecurity, which
has devastated the manufacturing sector in southern Ontario, the lm reveals the consequences of this “new
economy,” where families surviving on low wages without bene ts, or on dwindling social assistance, are forced to
choose between shelter or putting food on the table.
Heartfelt and provocative, the documentary presents stories of personal challenges while addressing deeper,
systemic causes of poverty and homelessness. In the ght for a ordable housing, Home Safe Toronto functions as
both a powerful experience and an indispensable tool.
This 96-minute- lm was created to raise consciousness about the impacts of homelessness on family life and to spur
action to bring about change. The lm is divided into chapters which can be accessed through the DVD’s scene
selection menu. If time is an issue, you can select sections based on the needs and interests of your particular group.
Chapter synopses are included below, with questions to jump start the conversation. Remember that audiences
often react to lms rst on an emotional level, before delving into issues in a more analytical way. Feel free to explore
the full range of responses to the lm.
Chapter 1: Introduction
This rst section sets out the documentary’s main premise: the crisis of family homelessness is tied
to the ongoing restructuring of the economy in which decent incomes and bene ts are increas-
ingly hard to nd.
In talking about her own family’s experience of homelessness during the Great Depression and her
grandmother’s ght to improve working conditions, director Laura Sky also introduces the theme
of workers collectively striving to improve their situations, which reappears later in the lm.
Chapter 2: Rose’s Story
This chapter shows the experience of life in a family shelter. A nancial setback, which can
happen to anyone, is disastrous for this family with two working parents whose low hourly-
wage jobs with no bene ts or vacation pay cannot cover the costs of daily living, including
food, rent and medicine.
Rose’s children, who have no private space and no place to play and do homework, feel
ashamed of living in a shelter. Why would they feel this way and what is their mother’s
response? What light does Rose’s situation throw on the dream of immigrants for a better life in
Canada for themselves and their children?
Chapter 3: The Taylors, Part 1
Scott Taylor’s low-wage manufacturing job can’t cover the costs of housing and feeding a family of
ve. During their ve-week stay in a shelter, the family had to be separated. Scott and his wife,
Joelle, speak of their anxieties about their children and the stigma of being homeless. This chapter
highlights the emotional e ects of nancial insecurity and lack of housing on parents and children.
How does the crisis they’re living through impact each member of the family? To what stereotypes
about homeless people is Scott alluding? How does stigma a ect how people see themselves, as
well as how others see them? What are the challenges of getting out of a shelter and nding stable
housing? What’s the di erence between a house and a home?
Chapter 4: Debbie and Phaon
Debbie and her daughter, Phaon, survive on Debbie’s subsistence wages from a service industry job.
Debbie’s take-home pay is less than minimum wage, leaving workers like her even further behind.
Phaon helps out with her paper route, and has found friendship with Jocelyn whom she met in a
For the moment, Debbie and Phaon have a roof over their heads but how is precarious housing also
part of the spectrum of homelessness? How do the young people in this chapter try to help out their
families? Where do the people pro led here nd pleasure, support and hope for the future?
Chapter 5: Jocelyn, Phaon, Ryan and Shane
These young people discuss their rst-hand experience of homelessness. What are the e ects of
economic inequity on them, psychologically, physically, in terms of their future hopes and dreams?
What are the di erences between personal and systemic understandings of the causes of home-
lessness? Can you nd examples of both in this section? How do the young people in this situation
try to help one another? What other kinds of supports might help them?
Chapter 6: The Taylors, Part 2
The Taylors are now settled in an apartment but are far from feeling secure about their housing
and future prospects. “Trying to gure out how we were going to pay rent and feed the kids had
me in tears. I don’t think anyone should have to give up one to keep the other.” (Joelle)
What are some of the systemic issues involved when people have to choose between food and
shelter for their families? What are the mental and physical health consequences for all members
of the Taylor family? What are the impacts on the children’s future?
Chapter 7: The Richards Family
The Richards family’s experience is a textbook case about how changes in the economy and
homelessness are intertwined. Once a well-paid automotive worker, Phil Richards and his family
are now work nomads, separated from the supports of family, friends and community, as they
relocate, face lay o s, and have to rely on insecure jobs without bene ts.
Discuss Colleen’s comment that people who ruin companies are rewarded with big bonuses while
those who make them productive are left out in the cold. What kind of supports would people in
this situation wish for from their community? What are the positive things that help the Richards
weather this di cult time in their lives? What are their strengths as a family?
Chapter 8: CAW Chrysler Action Centre
This union-based Action Centre o ers help to people who have lost their jobs. This is the rst
sequence in the lm which introduces the theme of collective action aimed at addressing the
underlying systemic issues and o ering support to laid-o workers and their families.
Why is collective action important? Are there new issues or perspectives raised in this section
which have not been voiced before? Why would unions be involved in issues around homeless-
Chapter 9: PMP Workers’ Action Centre
Non-unionized workers who are also newcomers ght back against the company’s closure ,
depriving them of their jobs as well as termination and severance pay.
Discuss the special challenges faced by unemployed workers who are also newcomers to Canada.
The need to speak out, rst mentioned by Rose at the beginning of the lm, is repeated here. Why
is it important? How do the members of the PMP Action Centre experience solidarity? What
di erence does this make to their experience of hardship?
Chapter 10: The Stop Community Food Centre
The Centre acts as a food bank, a drop-in centre serving nutritious food and a hub for community
organizing and grass roots action around shelter, poverty and food security issues.
Discuss the connections between lack of a ordable housing and food insecurity. Why is this a
social/community issue and not just a personal problem?
What are some of the implications of turning a blind eye to these issues? What gives people a
sense of meaning in the midst of personal di culties?
Chapter 11: Myriam and Rene
Myriam and Rene are single mothers whose shared experiences of eeing family violence, poverty
and homelessness have informed their grass roots advocacy and their friendship. In this section,
both Rene and Myriam emphasize the need to speak out and speak up in order to mobilize social
change. This is the rst time in the lm that access to a ordable housing and food security are
raised as human rights issues. Discuss the basis for this argument.
Discuss the importance of grass roots organizing. Why is it crucial in the ght for a ordable
housing? How does a strong sense of community enrich people’s lives and lead to social change?
Chapter 12: Kids’ Forum and Conclusion
The lm’s goal is to generate conversation about the growing crisis around homelessness and how
to take steps to end it. A group of youth advisors watches the lm and discusses their reactions
What are the most important issues for you that are touched on in the Kids’ forum, and the
concluding remarks that follow?
Moving Forward: Questions to Consider
From your perspective, what are the most powerful points made in the
Which stories or situations struck you as most impactful and why?
How did the people in this documentary a ect your assumptions
and beliefs about people who are homeless and the causes of poverty?
What needs to be done next?
What kind of community involvement is possible?
“The government needs to know what we are
going through. We work very hard. I came to
Taking Action: The 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 Formula Canada to be the best I can be, to go to
school, to have a good job, to give my kids a
good education. But I think I was wrong, it
1/3 to Advocacy for New Programs and Solutions didn’t turn out that way.”
Support anti-poverty and homeless/housing organizations.
“Homelessness starts way
Make your views known in your community, workplace, school, before you have no home.
faith organization and family gatherings. You can feel it coming, you
feel like you are falling into
Fight NIMBY (Not In My Backyard mentality) and other forms a pit. “
of discrimination against people who are homeless and living -Scott
1/3 to Front Line Services
Help support front line organizations in your community that
help homeless people directly with food, shelter, clothing and
support by donating money or volunteering.
1/3 to Help House Families
Support community organizations that are building housing in
your community and supporting families.
“We carry around so much shame as parents, it’s overwhelming. You feel the shame
of getting behind in your rent and not being able to provide for your family. But
when you are treated by so-called professionals with disregard, it makes you
wonder where exactly did we go wrong. When you treat each other with dignity
and respect and compassion, mountains can be moved. As long as our stories are
not being talked about, then you continue to carry the shame and the disgrace and
people continue to misunderstand.”