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Recently I had the opportunity to take some interesting photos of Downtown London including the London Central Library. It was a cloudy/hot rainy Saturday morning.

I found it interesting that there was a small gathering of an eclectic group of men on the second floor relaxing in their chairs trying to get some respite from the unending summer that we are experiencing.

Seeing my camera a couple of long haired bearded gentlemen offered to pose for a portrait for only $20.00. I laughed and told them that I usually charged $50. for a portrait sitting.

Along came ‘ Ron’ a senior citizen dressed in a very large trench coat and running shoes. He politely asked if I would take his picture? He wanted to send his children a copy; he even offered to pay me a Loonie. He posed and I clicked the shutter.

Ron gave me his address and I promised to deliver the photograph when it was printed. I was taken aback; foolish me, I never conceived of someone living in a motel room full time.

A week later I made my way over and dropped in to deliver his picture. The asphalt was broken in front of his room; the screen door mesh was torn. Inside there was a very small, room, with a T.V, single bed, chair & shower. There were no closets: all of his clothes and personal affects were stacked on his bed.

Ron has spent one year in his hole in the wall. He receives a check for $585. per month from Ontario Works He pays $500.00 per month for his motel room.

A short drive away on the Dundas Strip is another motel with a building out back that has been converted into a rooming house that houses nine men. Each man has a very small monastic like room. They share a common kitchen, television and bathroom.

Each resident pays $120.00 per week including tax. No women tenants are allowed. At present there is one vacancy.

One can try and top up the meagre government subsidies by picking up day jobs at the Labour Ready office on Dundas St East. The company “offers dependable temporary labour.”Workers line up at 5.30 a.m to check the day’s offerings in construction, factories and landscaping. Those who find work are issued a voucher which can be cashed on site before six p.m. each day.

A diverse group of single lonely men live in many of the motels on the strip. Many have been discharged from the London Psychiatric Hospital on Highbury Ave. They do not have the means to be able to pay for the first and last months rent up front from their government checks.

Many have lost touch with their families and need a permanent address to receive their Ontario Works checks/ Drug Benefit Card. The rooming houses/motels provide an address and a refuge from a cold society that the men feel has all but forgotten them.

Next time you drive by the fluorescent lights on Dundas take a moment to reflect for a moment. Try and answer the questions: who and why the men spend their nights behind their locked motel doors?

I wager that every one of the long term residents on the Strip has his own personal heart breaking story that probably will never be heard.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com