Between 1968 and 1983, Zena Weishoff, aka “the Grey Lady”, was often seen roaming Saint-Laurent Blvd or standing outside Warshaw’s grocery store (a stone’s throw away from the Weiner Shoe Shop where Sun Youth began in 1954).
In September 1983, Weishoff attracted media attention when she stayed three weeks in front of the porch of her apartment after having been forcibly evicted by her landlord. Many Montrealers offered their support and Sun Youth gave her money to supplement her welfare payments. She never returned to her apartment, but was taken to the hospital and placed in a residence. Sadly, Zena Weishoff passed away a few months after.
It was around that time that Sun Youth’s cofounders Sid Stevens and Earl De La Perralle decided to offer temporary shelters to disaster victims and homeless people, and started trying to change evictions rules in the city. “Try to find someone if you don’t have any money, no access to a bank account on a Friday night. When your stuff is on the sidewalk, try to find a trucking company that will take it on credit. These poor people were stuck until Monday, some even had to sleep outside. So Earl and I set up this system”, recalls Sid.
From there, Sun Youth worked with provincial Justice Minister Herbert Marx and by the mid-80s, a law prohibited landlords from evicting tenants on Friday PM, weekends, nights and statutory holidays.