Her Name was Margaret: New book explores life and death of homeless Hamilton woman

‘When you know someone’s name, it’s harder to look away,’ Denise Davy says

A

woman who grew up playing piano and accordion in Barbados and died after years of experiencing homelessness in Hamilton is at the heart of Denise Davy’s new book, Her Name Was Margaret: Life and Death on the Streets.

Margaret Jacobson — known at the shelters as Princess Margaret — started having symptoms of a complex form of schizophrenia at age 14. In 1986, she was without a permanent home full time. 

The book “interweaves her life with this history of psychiatric care in Canada,” Davy said, to show how the system failed her and so many others.

“My goal was to make her life matter and to make sure she wasn’t forgotten. Hopefully the book did that.”

Davy pored over pages of Margaret’s medical files — 869 pages worth — from the Hamilton psychiatric hospital. That opened up her entire life.

For Margaret, it was a “revolving-door cycle” from hospitals to boarding houses and onto the street. After some time, she’d be back in hospital with three-inch-long fingernails, lice in her hair, and cuts and bruises on her body. 

Sometimes she was described as “catatonic.”

Margaret Jacobson, as a little girl with her mother, Verna. (Courtesy of the Jacobson family)

But despite her health, Davy said, the notes in her files would soon call for her release. Davy said Margaret was forced out by a strong pressure to close beds and hospitals. 

“I first thought I was writing about one woman’s story. But as the research progressed, I realized that this was the story of tens of thousands of people.

“These were people who were psychiatric patients who were the victims of deinstitutionalization.” 

The people behind the statistics

Davy, a longtime reporter who covered social issues at the Hamilton Spectator, remembers meeting Margaret for the first time on a cold night in December 1993 at the Wesley Centre. Margaret showed up at midnight.

Davy said she had never seen someone so worn down.

“I can’t exactly explain it. I just know that when I saw her, I absolutely had to write her story,” she said. “Talking about it now, I get choked up.” 

Jacobson stands outside a convenience store. Davy says she was rarely seen without her cigarettes. (Photo Courtesy of Bill MacKinnon)

Davy had been writing an article on homelessness. After becoming frustrated with the statistics, studies and reports, she asked her editor for permission to spend a night with the people who were actually living the experiences. 

They spoke for 45 minutes. Her parents were missionaries and moved to Cambridge, Ont., after Margaret’s severe signs of schizophrenia arose. The resources available in the Caribbean where she was raised weren’t enough, Davy said. 

By age 17, Margaret was put into a psychiatric hospital, and two years later, the whole family moved to the United States. From age 21 to her death in 1995, she saw her parents twice.

‘Dumped onto the streets’

Davy, from Burlington, Ont., described homelessness as a “man-made” problem created by a Canadian government that slashed services for people with mental illness. A plan that started in the ’60s aimed to empty psychiatric hospitals and put people in supportive housing so they could “thrive.”

“All those people were basically dumped onto the streets,” she said. 

Margaret had no supports, family or “warrior friend” to advocate for her, Davy said. She was expected to take her medication and take the bus to the hospital. In short time, she would forget. 

Jacobson with her brothers David, left, and John. (Courtesy of the Jacobson family)

The hospitals were cold and sterile, Davy said. Margaret would get food, medication and her sheets changed. She took typing classes and pottery, but also spent a lot of time smoking and watching TV. 

“It’s not that she was completely happy, but she needed that level of intensive care,” Davy said.

After 24 years of shock treatment, medication, and being pushed in and out of the hospital, Margaret rejected all forms of institutional care, she said. 

A solution to homelessness

Davy said that when she speaks at book clubs, there are often people overwhelmed with it all. The reality, she said, is homelessness is not a problem without a solution.

“If people really knew the truth, I think they’d really be outraged.”

In an interview with Brother Richard MacPhee, executive director of Good Shepherd Centres, Davy asked whether there are “Margarets” on the streets today. 

“Absolutely. There are more Margarets today,” she remembers him saying.

The Canadian Mental Health Association of Ontario estimates 25 to 50 per cent of homeless people live with a mental health condition.

Denise Davy is the author of Her Name Was Margaret: Life and Death on the Streets, the story of a Hamilton woman who experienced homelessness much of her life. (Wolsak & Wynn)

Somehow, she said, Margaret kept going in the face of obstacles. When she died at age 51, Davy said, it took four 911 calls to get someone to help her. 

No one knew for a week that she had been buried, Davy said. The news only got out when her friend went to pick up a welfare cheque.

Davy continues to visit Margaret’s grave. On Mother’s Day, she left flowers.

Need for supportive housing

“We don’t have enough supportive housing, and we certainly don’t have enough community services or community mental health services. That’s why I think this book is so important today,” she said.

Katherine Kalinowski, chief operating officer of Good Shepherd Centres, agrees. There wasn’t enough supportive housing when the Ontario government moved away from institutionalizing people, and there isn’t enough now. 

“It’s not a mystery,” she said. “We know some of these things work, and we just don’t have enough.”

Kalinowski said she’s read Davy’s book “cover to cover,” and liked that it put a human face on the complexities of homelessness.

“We tend to look at homelessness and the people experiencing it as a social issue rather than being in touch with the humanity of individuals and the strengths and struggles that they’re having.

“There are just so many layers to this, and I think Denise’s book took that nuanced approach.”

‘So many layers’

For the past four years, Davy has been collecting gently used purses and toiletries as part of Purses for Margaret, which provides them to Mary’s Place, a Hamilton shelter for women. 

Jacobson smiles as a child while hugging her brother John. (Courtesy of the Jacobson family)

Members of Margaret’s family who had lost connection with her — a younger brother in Beijing and nephews in the Unites States — wanted her story to be told. Davy said they grew up hearing her name in whispers. 

She hopes to amplify that name and voice. 

“When you know someone’s name,” Davy said, “it’s harder to look away.”

Her Name Was Margaret: Life and Death on the Streets was published in February by Hamilton-based Wolsak and Wynn Publishers.

Original Article: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/denise-davy-her-name-was-margaret-1.6069095

March 24, 2021

ROOM $300, Days rd. 1548164002 (Kijiji)

ROOM $300, FEMALES ONLY!! Fully furnished Free onsite laundry Spacious common area Carpet free All utilities and wifi included /1554425209 (Kijiji)

ROOM $450, 549 Alfred st. The house consists of 3 bedrooms and 1 full bathroom on the second level, kitchen, living/dining room and bathroom on the main level and the 4th unit and laundry in the lower level. Bonus huge backyard!! Peaceful and relaxing Parking available. If interested please send a email/text with some info about yourself and we can schedule a viewing $450/month + shared cost of utilities 1 year lease. 1553773695 (Kijiji)

ROOM $460, One bedroom available in Cataraqui Woods home. Available April 1 Mature adult preferred $460/month + utilities (approx. and consistently $100/Month) One female cat in residence. Laundry in basement. 1st and last month required.  1557114218 (Kijiji)

 

ROOM $500, 68 Douglas ave. CHARMING HOUSE UTILITY INCLUDED CALLS ONLY 613 770-4920 EMAILS AND TEXTS WILL NOT BE RESPONDED TO PLEASE… PRIVATE STREET, BUS STOP IN FRONT OF THE HOUSE 1550924412 (Kijiji)

ROOM $550, 1016 Centennial dr. Available may 1st 550$ Inclusive with wifi. /1554546877 (Kijiji)

ROOM $550, Rent as soon as April first , with two laidback and respectful tenants ! The room is not furnished however you should fund everything needed throughout the rest of the apartment such as kitchen bathroom. Pet are allowed Near downtown area Looking to rent out 3 to 6 months possibly longer Rent is 550 plus electricity and internet (split three ways). Don’t hesitate to contact me for picture or possible viewing ! 1556699919 (Kijiji)

ROOM $600, 374 Morningside. Located in a clean modest home in a quite neighbourhood. Master bedroom with queen size bed and computer desk. Use of kitchen, living areas, backyard, laundry. Two full baths, internet all inclusive. 1551081977 (Kijiji)

ROOM $600, County rd 38. Large room and separate sitting room, cable, internet and parking included call Dave 6133899430 1556102163 (Kijiji)

ROOM $650, 4247 Sydenham rd. Bedroom for rent, unfurnished, shared bathroom, livingroom, kitchen, laundry….cable, internet, utilities all included 1555517799 (Kijiji)

ROOM $650, Amherstview. Bedroom for rent Amherstview for 1 person. Available immediately Room has a single bed and is 10 ×10 $650 No smoking and no guest.  1556023362 (Kijiji)

ROOM $650, The room has a queen bed, walk in closet, hardwood floors, two windows so the room is very bright! The home is large, well maintained and very clean. Rent is $650.00 per month and includes wifi and utilities. We also have a large stone patio in the back yard and a hot tub which can be used if you are willing to chip in with chemical costs… approx $10 per month. The home is close to downtown and on two express bus routes. For more information please contact Dan by return email or by text at 613-328-8854 1555869669 (Kijiji)

ROOM $750, Room in motel monthly. Parking, phone, TV. Own entry, washroom. Available now. Call Doug 613-542-7651 1494701212 (Kijiji)

BACHELOR $995, 544 college. Avail..April large bachelor apart $895.00 Incl..heat hot @ cold water near bus stop laundry new hardwood ceramic floors secure building elevator parking South side for viewing @ appointment Call 343-333-3811  1556504822 (Kijiji)

BACHELOR $975, 288 Union st. lower level of this multi-unit property. It is partially furnished with a table and chairs. Appliances included are a fridge, microwave and hotplate. There is also on-site laundry and parking available but not included. Located in a great location, only a few blocks to Queen’s University and a short walk to Kingston General Hospital. utilities included. 1533624673 (Kijiji)

BACHELOR $995, 22 Colbourne. Laundry on site. Parking $115 per month. Utilities: Not included Please e-mail us at info@bpedevelopment.com or call us at 613-507-9116 for further information or to set up a showing! Visit our website at www.bpe-rentals.com to see more of our beautiful units. 1549596685 (Kijiji)

BACHELOR $995, 31 Bayswater. We are looking for someone to take over our lease. All utilities included, for Osgoode properties. Call if interested 613-542-9590. 1555054023 (Kijiji)

BACHELOR $995, 204 Montreal. Beside flower shop. Bright large windows, very clean Newer furniture Heat, water, light, inclusive. PHONE CALLS ONLY PLEASE Marilyn 613453 8570 1553765891 (Kijiji)

BACHELOR $995, Wellington st. Semi-basement with Bed-Sitting Room; Office/Dining Area; Kitchen; Oak Floors; Built-in Dresser & Shelves; FREE: Laundry, Heat, Electricity and Water. Available May 1st. NO SMOKING & NO PETS  1556768453 (Kijiji)

BACHELOR $995, Bayswater. Water heat hydro incl. Outdoor Parking – $35. 1556590760 (Kijiji)

BACHELOR $1050, 300 Regent. Practical bachelor apartment in great central location near the Kingston Centre. Features: – Laminate flooring – Big bright windows – Laundry in building If you have any questions regarding this unit please call our office 613-542-7343 or email apartments@springergroup.com  (Kijiji) 1539129301

BACHELOR $1100, 65 Nelson. There is an air conditioner and heat and water are included. Washing machine and dryer available for tenants in the basement and parking space is available at an extra cost. Can be rented furnished or not. Lease can be from May to August 2021 or May2021 to April 2022. $1100 unfurnished, $1150 furnished, $50 parking if needed .Please text or email me.  1552418478 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $825, 547 Brock st. Landlord requires first and last months rent, and post-dated cheque for each month of the duration of the lease. Landlord provides stove, fridge, and one free parking space. Electricity to be paid by tenants. Heat and water to be paid by landlord. Tenant agrees not to sublet without leave. No smoking. No pets. In house laundry. Hardwood floor. One year lease required. 1553163784 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $840, Ordnance st. Downtown near Artillery Park. Close to shopping, restaurants. One bedroom unit on third floor. Rent includes heat and water. Tenant pays electricity. Available April. References. 1557064686 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $845, 116 Toronto st. One bedroom apartment for rent located at the intersection of Brock and Toronto Streets. Features private entrance with deck, 3-piece bathroom, bright rooms and parking available.. This unit is renting for $845/month plus electricity and shared water/sewer. 1553855257 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $875, 310 Yonge st. One Bedroom very bright and cheery lower unit, smoke and pet free. Fabulous South Side location approximately one km from Providence Care and bus stop located conveniently right out front. Freshly painted and recently upgraded with all new insulated exterior walls and thermal pane windows to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. No smoking and no pets please. Includes all window coverings, fridge, stove, microwave, and one parking spot. Available April 1st, possibly sooner. First/last/Ref/Credit check. Please call Sandra at 613-546-2347 for more info and to arrange veiwing. 1556706119 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $975, 15 Regent st. Cozy Bright One-Bedroom apartment located in great neighborhood with bus stop, park near by, on site laundry, 1 parking spot. Close to Queen’s, St. Lawrence and Hospitals. 1554901616

1 BEDROOM $985, This apartment is located at the corner of princess and Division Street. There is a set of stairs to enter the apartment. Through the front door is the kitchen which leads to the dining/living room area. Off of the living room is the separate bedroom and four piece bathroom. This apartment is available for $985 per month plus electricity. Landlord pays for heat and water. Available now or April 1, first and last month’s rent required. Please contact for a viewing. 1556463187  (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1000, 7798 Victoria. Great one bedroom apartment for rent in great neighbourhood close to schools and park next door within walking distance of the Kingston Center in downtown Kingston apartment has new floors new paint on walls new windows there is a side yard to enjoy call or text Vince for showings at 343-333-8468 do not email I don’t get them 1554799093 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1000, 382 Victoria. Parking inc. All inclusive. Shared laundry.  emailrentals@limestonepm.ca . (613) 530-3340  1552894870 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1049, 16 Leroy Grant Drive, Call 613-541-0678 to arrange a viewing! One-bedroom available for immediately. Monthly rent from $1,049.00-1,215.00 plus electricity, Parking is $45-65 monthly(outdoor) For more information on this building including amenities, photos and floor plans please visit: https://www.homestead.ca/apartments/16-leroy-grant-drive-kingston1505826930 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1050, Johnson st.  Bright, basement apartment in quiet building, on bus route, 1 parking space, near college and university and hospitals. 1556230186 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1053, Brock st. Clean, located near park, walking distance to Queens. Full kitchen with new dishwasher, private entrance, full bath with storage, built in bookshelf, bedroom and sitting area in one room large enough for queen bed, couch night table and dresser. 1556382296 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1063, 310 Westdale Ave. Pet friendly. Resident Laundry Room . You can log onto: www.braeburyproperties.com to fill out a pre approval application. Call or email more information (613) 546-3400. tyler@braeburyproperties.com. 1553863954 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1075, 1015 Pembridge cr. Outdoor Parking – $40. Visitor Parking. Balconies. Pet Friendly. Water – Included. Laundry. 1555106597 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1075, Fifth Ave. Rent is $1075.00.00, all inclusive Available on a 12 month lease Available May 1st, 2021. Please contact Heron Management for more information or to book a showing at (613)-766-1659 or go to http://www.heronmanagement.com 1556030000 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1099, 175 Park st.  Call 613-546-1462 to arrange a viewing! Parking 52-72. Avail Jan  Plus electricity. 1539241675 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1095, 561 Princess. Parking Not Included. Available Now. Tenant pays hydro (avg. $35/month). Quiet and secure building. Laundromat close by. For more information, please e-mailrentals@limestonepm.ca. Phone: 613 530-3340 1547226802 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1100, 214 Montreal st. Recently renovated one bedroom unit for rent in downtown Kingston. Updated with new kitchen, bathroom fixtures, flooring and fresh paint, this unit includes a bright livingroom and bedroom, 3-piece bathroom, eat-in kitchen with fridge and stove. Parking at property for an additional cost and based on availability. 1544627388 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1100, 234 Johnson st.  Large one bedroom located on the 3rd floor of an old house. This includes the entire floor, inside entrance. 2 mins from Hotel Dieu and 5 mins from Queens. 1100 plus hydro. Includes internet Furnished. Hot water heating References required contact tbturn@gmail.com video tour is available txt at 613-539-9066 1555301275  (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1100, 40 Connaught. Features living room with hardwood floors that opens up to a great working kitchen with lots of counter and cupboard space, 4-piece bathroom with lots of storage, two bright bedrooms and two entrance/exit doors that includes a private entrance with mudroom that leads out to a deck and shared back yard area. One parking spot available. Renting for $1100/month plus electricity and water/sewer which averages $120/month.  /1555169099 (Kijiji)

1 BEDROOM $1100, 535 Rideau st. Clean 1 bedroom apartment at Montreal St and Rideau St. This apartment has been fully renovated. Laundry facility, 1 parking, fridge and stove are included at $1100 per month plus Hydro. Apartment address is 535 Rideau St. Kingston. Close to downtown Kingston and close to a bus stop, walk trail. For inquiry, please call 613-539-9034. 1556357864 (Kijiji)

2 BEDROOM $1100, 63 Cowdy. There are two bedroom units . the basement unit is ready for rent and the rent is $1100 per month plus hydro(and heating). second floor unit needs repairing and is available on March 1 for $1200 per month plus hydro(and heating). I am also looking for dependable young couple or students who are able to and willing to help me to do minor repairs and maintenances. ph:613-480-6627 1554380703 (Kijiji)

2 BEDROOM $1165, 80 & 84 William st. Available April 1st, two bedroom apartment with a balcony Also available parking and on-site laundry facilities. Features include security building and extensive use of hardwood and ceramic flooring throughout the unit. From $1165.00 including water. /1553046907 (Kijiji)

2 BEDROOM $1165, 90 Curtis cres. HOMESTEAD LAND HOLDINGS. Call 613-531-5298 to arrange a viewing!, plus electricity, Parking is $50-70 monthly(outdoor) For more information on this building including amenities, photos and floor plans please visit: https://www.homestead.ca/apartments/90-curtis-crescent-kingston1505826777 (Kijiji)

2 BEDROOM $1175, 332 Montreal. Walking distance to downtown Kingston. The unit is an upstairs small 2 bedroom in a semi detached duplex. It comes with washer/dryer in unit, hardwood floors, small balcony, 3 piece bathroom, and parking spot in front of house. Electricity is extra. Available June 1st. Please text Taylor @ 416-737-2941. 1555685888 (Kijiji)

2 BEDROOM $1200, 122 Princess. rentals@limestonepm.ca Tenant pays hydro. Available May 1, 2021. Coin operated laundry in building. Phone: 613 530-3340 1554099640 (Kijiji)

2 BEDROOM $1295, 544 College St. Available April.  Incl heat, water, parking. Call 343-333-3811 1555401084 (Kijiji)

 

BEDROOM $1250, 1010 Pembridge. Available May 1, 2021. Tenant pays hydro.  Coin operated laundry. For more info e-mail rentals@limestonepm.ca (KIJIJI) Limestone Property Management- Phone: 613 530-3340

2 BEDROOM $1275, Priced right! Perfect location, Quiet building, Available Now! Easy to maintain lament flooring though out and a new kitchen as well as lots of storage area. Parking and laundry facilities are on site. Heat and Water included, Electric is extra. No dogs and No smoking. First and last month’s rent along with a one year lease is required. If interested in a viewing; an online application must submitted. 1549987088  (Kijiji)

2 BEDROOM $1200, 85 Toronto St. Parking Available at cost. Laundry in building. Call or email The Braebury Residential Team for more information. (613) 546-3400 tina@braeburyhomes.com 1554707670 (Kijiji)

2 BEDROOM $1200, 17 Eldon hallContact Tribond Property Management for more information! 613-985-1987 or info@tribondpm.com. large in-suite storage room and a balcony with space for seating. This building includes laundry on every floor, an elevator, modern lobby and a superintendent on-site & 1 parking space included. Water is included and hydro is extra. Pet free building. 1533743121 (Kijiji)

2 BEDROOM $1275, 196 Concession. This apartment is $1,275.00, plus electric (heat & water included) First and last month’s rent required on a 12 month lease Available May 1st, 20211556917004  (Kijiji)

2 BEDROOM $1295, 251 Macdonnell. Available May 1, 2021. Tenant pays hydro. Parking for one vehicle included. Coin operated laundry on site. E-mail rentals@limestonepm.ca if interested. Phone: 613 530-3340 1554099782 (Kijiji)

 

2 BEDROOM $1300, 550 Union st. Mar 1. Amenities included: refrigerator and stove, shared coin laundry on-site. Electricity is extra. Heat, water and sewer included in rent. 1549446345 (Kijiji)

 

2 BEDROOM $1325, 239 Regent St. Parking not incl. Available Oct 1. Tenant pays hydro. Lower level unit. Laundry in building. 1514638430 (Kijiji)

2 BEDROOM $1350, 316 Westdale. Pet friendly. Laundry. (613) 453-2783 staceybraeburyproperties@gmail.com

 

2 BEDROOM $1350, 130 The Parkway. Call 613-541-3696 to arrange a viewing! Available March. Plus electricity. 1544545571 (Kijiji)

 

2 BEDROOM $1350, 211 Queen Mary. Parking Included. Available Now. Walk-out balcony. For more information, please email rentals@limestonepm.ca. 613 530-3340 1555269998 (Kijiji)

 

2 BEDROOM $1350, 107 Compton st. Available September 25. Water inc. Balcony. Storage. Outdoor parking. Laundry. 1505833938 (Kijiji) 

3 BEDROOM $1575, 3 Bedroom apartment close to St Lawrence, Close to downtown. 10 min to queens. Bright spacious bedrooms. hardwood floors throughout. In floor heating . 5 appliances. washer/dryer in the unit. fridge stove dishwasher, microwave Close to shops, buses, waterfront. Very quiet building with lots of parking. Front unit upstairs 1575monthly plus utilities. Available now. Call 613 328 9464  apply on line www.barryprop.ca 1553560322 (Kijiji)

3 BEDROOM $1595, 35 Eldon Hall, 3bd townhouse Eldon Hall Place, close to amenities, utilities included except W/S, non-smoking. 1557050587  (Kijiji)

3 BEDROOM $1600, Located at the corner of Princess and Division St, this apartment is located on the second floor and has its own entrance. Past this are three separate bedrooms and the four piece bathroom. Available now or April 1 the rent for this apartment is $1600 plus electricity. Some furnishings available if required. Landlord pays for water. 1553348001 (Kijiji)

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

Skip to content