A Nurse Week Shout Out: Cathy Crowe – Street Nurse

I have great admiration for people of action. Sure, most of us would like to make the world a better place, and maybe we do something about it, sometimes. But there are people who are relentless. They keep at it year after year.

Decade after decade.

Cathy Crowe, a Street Nurse in Toronto, is an unrelenting homelessness advocate who has been at it for decades. I’ve been reading her book, A Knapsack Full of Dreams: Memoirs of Street Nurse, of late and I’m often overwhelmed by her consistency in the face of a seemingly hopeless effort to do something about the crisis she sees before her. She doesn’t give up. She just keeps at it despite the setbacks, despite the lack of progress, despite the apathy of the rest of us in society and government who don’t see the crisis before us.

I encourage you to read her book, to follow her on Twitter (@cathyacrowe) or on Facebook. Hopefully, her book and her advocacy will inspire us all to action.

Here story is an amazing one. During this National Nurse Week in Canada I want to give a shout out in thanks for all she does. I’m sure there are many days where she would like to give up, where she’s tired, where she can’t see any progress or the purpose to her efforts. Her work and advocacy are not in vain. Things do happen. She inspires others to action.

In her book she shares an article she wrote for the Globe & Mail about her knapsack, My black bag made me cry. This excerpt from that article speaks for itself.

“On cue, my hands nervously groped inside my black bag to find the right contents to demonstrate the intimacy and horror of what I and other nurses do every day. In a clinical fashion, I explained their purpose to the adults in the room:

‘You see, we now see signs of starvation and malnutrition, so I carry Ensure.’

‘We don’t have enough sleeping bags in Toronto, so I carry these space blankets.’

‘The duct tape is for taping soles back on shoes, but also for taping cardboard together for a roof.’

As I spoke, my heart raced. I wondered later—how had the contents of my bag and the way I nurse changed so much? To my surprise, I began to cry.

It is said that your body holds memories, and my nurse hands clearly remembered better days. My nurse hands once did more useful things…My bandages no longer cover the wounds of my patients. My vitamins will not prevent the white plague of tuberculosis from taking another victim. I cannot help someone achieve a peaceful night of safety and sleep. Only roofs will do that. And I am not a carpenter.”

No, Cathy Crowe, you’re not a carpenter. You’re a caring, loving, dedicated Street Nurse.

Thank you for who you are and all you do.


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