Cathy Crowe

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Cathy Crowe, RN, BAAN, M.Ed.(Sociology)
Cathy Crowe Street Nurse.gif
Cathy Crowe in Toronto c. 2007
Born 1952
Cobourg, Ontario
Residence Toronto, Ontario
Citizenship Canadian
Education BAA, M.Ed, D.Litt. (honoris causa)
Alma mater Ryerson and Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Occupation Street Nurse/Educator
Years active over 30 years
Known for Community Work/Anti-Poverty Activist
Awards Economic Justice Award, the Atkinson Charitable Foundation

Cathy Crowe, RN (born 1952) is a Canadian Street Nurse, educator, author, social justice activist and filmmaker, specializing in advocacy for the homeless in Canada. She is a frequent commentator on issues related to health, homelessness and affordable housing. She is currently a Distinguished Visiting Practitioner in the Faculty of Arts, Department of Politics an Public Administration at Ryerson University.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Cobourg, Ontario but raised in Kingston, Ontario, she went to Toronto to work and study at the Toronto General Hospital, where she received a diploma in nursing, in 1972.[1] In 1985, she received a Bachelor of Applied Arts in nursing, from Ryerson Polytechnic Institute.[1] In 1992, she received her Master of Education in Sociology, from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).[1] She has received multiple honorary degrees including from the University of Victoria, which granted her a Doctor of Science in Nursing in 2001,[2] a Doctor of Letters from McMaster University in June 2005,[3] an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Ottawa in 2008, an honorary Doctor of Laws from York University in 2010, an honorary Bachelor of Applied Studies from Humber College in 2012 and an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Windsor in 2015.

She was married twice; with her last one, to former Metro Toronto Councillor Roger Hollander, ending in divorce in 1995.[4] She has a daughter and three grandsons.

Community work[edit]

She came to public prominence as a "street nurse", a term coined in the early 1990s by a homeless man in the impoverished downtown Toronto area where she worked.[5] She is noted for her work with the homeless and poor populations in Canada's largest city, Toronto.[5] She is an activist for affordable housing, public health and social justice. In 1998, along with other social justice activists and academics, she co-founded the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC).[5] They brought public attention to homelessness declaring it to be a man-made disaster, which in their view, qualified as a social welfare disaster requiring the same kind of response that governments give to natural disasters. This human-disaster was the basis for the name of the group and many of its ideas.[5] The TDRC and Crowe promoted the idea of a "One Percent Solution" to end homelessness. The one percent solution calls for each level of government to commit an additional one percent of their budget towards affordable, social housing.[5]

Electoral politics[edit]

In January 2010, Crowe entered electoral politics, by offering to run for the Ontario New Democratic Party, as their candidate in the February 4, 2010 by-election in the provincial riding of Toronto Centre.[6] At the ONDP's January 10, 2010 nomination meeting, her candidacy went uncontested. She faced Ontario Liberal Party's candidate, Glen Murray, and Pamela Taylor for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.[7][8] Crowe finished a strong second, doubling the NDP's vote totals by taking 33 percent of the popular vote.[9] She ran a second time in the 2011 provincial general election but lost to incumbent Glen Murray. For many years she worked closely with former Toronto City Councillor and leader of the federal NDP Jack Layton. She wrote the foreward to his book Homelessness. How to End the National Crisis which he co-authored with Michael Shapcott.

Dying for a Home[edit]

Crowe's book, Dying for a Home: Homeless Activists Speak Out, is a first-hand account of Canadian homelessness, and the practical steps needed to address the problem. Drawing from 17 years of experience, Crowe's book brings together the voices of ten homeless activists advocating for change. In so doing, they clear "homelessness" of its negative stereotypes and endow the word with alternate qualities, such as bravery, courage, charisma, and intelligence. Dying for a Home gives details on how to implement the TDRC's one percent solution.


Crowe has been involved in multiple documentary films about homelessness:

Home Safe Hamilton (2010), Development research with filmmaker Laura Sky, Skyworks Charitable Foundation.

Home Safe Toronto (2009).  Executive Producer. Filmmaker - Laura Sky, Skyworks Charitable Foundation.

Home Safe Calgary (2008).  Executive Producer. Filmmaker - Laura Sky, Skyworks Charitable Foundation.

Street Nurse (2002).  Subject participant. Filmmaker - Shelley Saywell, Bishari Film Productions.

Shelter From The Storm (2001).  (development research) A profile of Toronto Disaster Relief Committee and Tent City Toronto.  Filmmaker -  Michael Connolly.


Besides the aforementioned honorary degrees, she received an International Nursing Ethics Award in 2003 in Amsterdam.[1] She was also the recipient of the Economic Justice Fellowship Award, from the Atkinson Charitable Foundation, in 2004[5] which was twice renewed. She is a Paul Harris Fellow (Toronto Rotary Club 2007), was named Person of the Year by the Toronto Sun (2000), received the City of Toronto Persons award (2004), and was named Toronto's Best Homelessness advocate by NOW Magazine (2005).


  1. ^ a b c d "Cathy Crowe". Nursing in Ontario Profiles. Ontario Nursing Connection. c. 2007. Retrieved 2010-01-09. 
  2. ^ Shore, Valerie (2001-04-06). "UVIC to Award Eight Honorary Degrees at June Convocation". Victoria, British Columbia: UVic Communications Services. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  3. ^ Media Release (2005-04-08). "McMaster announces honorary degree recipients for spring convocation". Hamilton, Ontario: McMaster University. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  4. ^ Hayes, David (2009-01-24). "Street nurse fights so we can all have homes". The Toronto Star. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Simmie, Scott (2004-01-22). "Street nurse earns prestigious honour". Toronto Star. Toronto: Torstar. pp. A1, A17. 
  6. ^ The Canadian Press (2010-01-06). "McGuinty calls Toronto Centre byelection". Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2016-05-15. 
  7. ^ Benzie, Robert (2010-01-07). "Murray front and centre". Toronto Star. Toronto: Torstar. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  8. ^ The Canadian Press (2010-01-10). "Crowe to run for NDP in Toronto Centre". The Globe and Mail. Toronto: CTVglobemedia. Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  9. ^ Ferguson, Rob; Robert Benzie (2010-02-05). "Murray hangs on to Toronto Centre for Liberals". Toronto Star. Toronto: Torstar. Retrieved 2010-02-05. 


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