Volume 94, Issue 95

Wednesday, March 21, 2001


Play proves that blood is thicker than mud

A masterful look at World War II

Seagal meets expectations

The human side of the homeless

Buried Treasure

The human side of the homeless

Life On The Heater
Directed By: Thomas Mann

By Jared Rochwerg
Gazette Staff

It is often dreadful to think about waiting for a bus in the middle of a notoriously cold Canadian winter.

Next time you're waiting for the bus, it's worth thinking about people who spend their entire winter outside in the freezing cold – not just 10 minutes at a time.

For scores of homeless people, living just a couple of blocks from Canada's Parliament buildings in Ottawa, a heating vent is home. They are a family of "street survivors," interviewed by documentary filmmaker Thomas Mann for,Life On The Heater, which airs tonight at 10 p.m. on TVOntario.

In Life On The Heater Mann offers insight into a subject often forgotten or overlooked, and focuses on different members of a family of street survivors who describe their experiences living on a sidewalk heater.

This technique allows Mann to expose viewers to a more human side of the homeless experience. Among others, we are introduced to Tim, a 21-year-old homeless man who spends most of his time talking about getting high. Another inhabitant of the heater named Inferno, philosophically discusses the nature of families.

Mann reveals the inhabitants of the heater care for each other like family members. For example, they take care of each other when they're sick, share blankets when they're cold, and remain devoted to their friend Debbie, who suffers from AIDS and cirrhosis of the liver.

In keeping with popular homeless stereotypes, there is a seemingly endless supply of alcohol. While many of the homeless are questioned, they have huge bottles of alcohol in their hands and drink non-stop. Although tragic, their intoxication makes for some comical responses and anecdotes.

The film also brings to light the "family's" bitter resentment towards society in general and, more specifically, the government's attempt to provide shelters for the homeless. For the most part, the homeless have too much pride to even consider going to a shelter for help.

Mann does a wonderful job presenting a side of homeless people the audience might not otherwise get to see. He is welcomed into the family for a day to show how rough streetlife can be – giving you something to consider next time you see someone extending a hat for help.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000