- 354 pages
- Standard Color
- 6.0 x 9.0 inches
- eBook (epub, mobi, pdf)
- 978-1-5255-3454-6 eBook
- 978-1-5255-3453-9 Paperback
- 978-1-5255-3452-2 Hardcover
- Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
- Biography & Autobiography, Social Activists
- Biography & Autobiography, Medical
Homelessness and health care, Canadian social justice, Street nurse, Social justice activism, Nursing, Canadian housing crisis, Affordable housing
A Knapsack Full of Dreams
Memoirs of a Street Nurse
"My nurse hands once did more useful things. They immunized the fat, healthy thighs of infants, they carefully measured cardiac drugs to administer to young heart patients, they bathed both the elderly lady after her surgery and the 24-year-old Italian-Canadian woman after her death. My hands once mixed linseed poultices, rubbed twenty backs a night before darkness fell and, by flashlight, checked intravenous drips, catheters, and other tubing. They made hot milk in the middle of the night and then, later at home, soothed a child with too-frequent earaches.
These are good uses for hands.
Now they carry a black bag into streets, alleyways, and ravines. The bandages I carry no longer cover the wounds of my patients. My vitamins will not prevent the white plague of tuberculosis from taking another victim. The granola bars I carry cannot begin to feed the hunger I meet. I cannot even help someone achieve one peaceful night of safety and sleep. Only roofs will do that. And I am not a carpenter."
There is no right to shelter or housing in Canada.
Over the past three decades, a series of federal governments cut funding for social programs and eliminated our national housing program, leaving hundreds of thousands of people victim to the tsunami of homelessness that was declared a national disaster twenty years ago. No one knows this reality better than Cathy Crowe, who witnessed the explosion of homelessness across Canada while working as a Street Nurse. This fallout was accompanied by great suffering, inhumane shelter conditions, new disease outbreaks, and clusters of homeless deaths.
It is a reality that spans across the entire country.
In A Knapsack Full of Dreams, Cathy Crowe details her lifelong commitment as a nurse and social justice activist—particularly her thirty years as a Street Nurse—with passion, grace, and fortitude. Presented through the lens of someone dedicated to the power and beauty of film, A Knapsack Full of Dreams will move you, then inspire you to act.
“Cathy Crowe grew up aspiring to be a good hospital nurse like her mother, but ended up doing ‘hard political nursing’ on Toronto’s streets.
Her tale is powerful and affecting, and reminds us of the gross injustice we’ve committed as a society in leaving so many people without a home.”
—Linda McQuaig, journalist & author
• • •
“A remarkable memoir that captures, with true heart and soul, the tribulations and hopes that mark every day and night in the lives of the homeless. The life of Cathy Crowe shines through as a testimony of grit, commitment, and love for all humanity—especially the most vulnerable.”
—Miloon Kothari, Former Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, UN Human Rights Council
• • •
“Cathy Crowe’s reporting from the streets of Toronto and beyond is vivid. This deeply personal journey through housing and health policy is both despairing and hopeful. A must-read if you care about cities.”
—Shawn Micallef, Author, Frontier City: Toronto on the Verge of Greatness; Toronto Star columnist, co-founder Spacing Magazine
• • •
“A Knapsack Full of Dreams is a gift of raw lived experience, analysis, and history. Cathy’s vulnerable, reflective account of her journey evokes a sense of the dynamic and influential capacity nurses can have to champion social good. This memoir is a powerful call to action for all nurses, nursing students, and educators; a lesson in tenacity, advocacy, and translating theory to practice.”
—Hannah Stahl, Fourth year BScN student, Co-founder of Nursing Students for Social Justice
• • •
“Fearless Cathy Crowe’s activism memoir reveals how a devotion to nursing and film inspired her to be become a leading social change advocate in Canada, determined to fight homelessness. Read this book and create your own social change adventure.”
—Professor Myer Siemiatycki, Politics Department, Inaugural Jack Layton Chair, Ryerson University
• • •
"A Knapsack Full of Dreams chronicles the heartbreaks, intimate conversations, and the indomitable spirit of one of Canada’s greatest homelessness advocates. Cathy Crowe is a truth seeker and speaker. Read this book to understand what it truly means to never give up on the dreams of pursuing a just world—no matter what the personal cost.”
—Kristyn Wong-Tam, Human Rights Activist and Toronto City Councillor
• • •
"A Knapsack Full of Dreams is a cogent, genuine nursing memoir straight from the front lines of social justice.
Toronto street nurse and social activist Cathy Crowe advocates for equitable health care and national housing reform in Canada. Her memoir of an accomplished career, A Knapsack Full of Dreams, builds an eloquent case for political nursing.
An intelligent tie-in to Crowe’s experience with documentaries and love for film is woven into each of the chapters, which are prefaced by descriptions of influential film festival entries and Hollywood favorites. They highlight Crowe’s self-education in social justice as it’s portrayed on screen, while also creating a road map for others. Apt quotations, poems, and excerpts from Crowe’s speeches and journals amplify the book’s call to not only witness, but act.
-Foreword Clarion Reviews
Cathy Crowe is a Canadian Street Nurse, educator, social justice activist, and filmmaker specializing in advocacy on homelessness in Canada. She is the author of Dying for a Home: Homeless Activists Speak Out and is a frequent commentator on issues related to health, homelessness, and affordable housing. Her articles have been published in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and NOW Magazine, as well as on rabble.ca. Cathy was an executive producer in the Home Safe documentary-film series and is the subject of the film Street Nurse, directed by Shelley Saywell. Cathy is a co-founder of numerous advocacy groups, including the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee. She previously received the Economic Justice Award Fellowship from the Atkinson Charitable Foundation and the International Human Rights Award in Nursing from the International Centre for Nursing Ethics in Amsterdam.
Besides her diploma in nursing from the Toronto General Hospital School of Nursing in 1972, her Bachelor of Applied Arts in nursing from Ryerson University in 1985, and her Master of Education (Sociology) from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in 1992, she has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Victoria, McMaster University, the University of Ottawa, York University, and the University of Windsor. Cathy received the Order of Canada in 2018 and is currently a Distinguished Visiting Practitioner in the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University.
Cathy continues to fight for the right to shelter and a fully funded national housing program.
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