October 5th two artists known as the Department of Public Memory held a memorial service with a twist.
Perram House used to be an 8-bed hospice where many of Toronto’s homeless and marginalized individuals went to spend their final days. That came to an end earlier this year when the board of the not-for-profit charity decided it could no longer afford to continue.
Whereas memorials are usually for people not services, the touching ceremony featured former staff and volunteers who spoke about how much Perram House meant to the community.
The Department of Public Memory creates signs that are placed about the city to remind us of the public services we have lost. While the sign temporarily went up October 5th, the artists are seeking city approval to permanently mount it in front of Perram House.
To watch a short video of the October 5th ceremony, click on the box below.
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Department of Public Memory
It was such an odd thing to say.
October 5th the two artists known as the Department of Public Memory held a memorial to Perram House, an eight-bed hospice that closed earlier this year (video to come).
One of the speakers at the event, a former employee, suggested that Perram House couldn’t work and that the end was as inevitable as it was for the palliative patients who spent their final days there.
Her argument suggested that the hospice had to be better integrated with other health services to succeed. Fair enough.
Surprisingly, rather than argue for more public funding, she suggested that hospices like Perram House wouldn’t be regarded as belonging to the community if these services were not partially funded through private donation. Say what?
She quickly cautioned that 50 per cent donation would be too much to handle. Perram House wasn’t nearly as dependent on private contributions. In fact, about 80 per cent of funding for Perram House was already public. It was the remaining 20 per cent that the board felt itself unable to raise.
It’s an odd notion that something cannot be regarded by the community as belonging to them without the intermediary of private donation.
Public services are lost one at a time, often incrementally.
Take the Shelburne Hospital. Once a partner site of Headwaters Health Care, services were removed from the community one-by-one until eventually the entire hospital closed with barely any protest.
The Ministry of Health prefers to place health services into community-based settings, but the sector is notoriously unstable, often reliant on volunteer donations to make up a percentage of operating costs. When those volunteer donations dry up, many small agencies shutter their facilities before the LHINs can even assess the impact on access to local health services.
Two Toronto artists who call themselves the “Department of Public Memory” are commemorating public services lost in their municipality. That includes placing signs around the city reminding residents of what was once there.
It’s a brilliant idea to illustrate how our city is changing and who is being left out in the process. Their latest project is one such small but valuable health agency that didn’t succeed.