Windsor

Man who died in the cold on Windsor streets remembered for sense of adventure, humour

Downtown Mission opens new warming centre as overnight shelters in Windsor-Essex are at capacity

Posted: February 04, 2022

Anatole Rybas' family fondly remembers him as a free-spirited, adventurous man who came to Windsor seeking out new opportunities. (Photo courtesy of Jordan Jocius)

 Anatole Rybas, who was found dead outside on the frigid streets of downtown Windsor, is being described as a gentle man with an adventurous spirit.

Rybas, 69, was homeless and died on Monday. Windsor police said officers responded to a call of a person "without vital signs" at around 3:45 p.m. on Ouellette Avenue in between Wyandotte Street and Park Street.

His nephew, Sam Toman, said Rybas "thought of himself as kind of a pirate, someone who couldn't be tied down, someone who was born to explore, born to meet new people, born to have adventures to kind of live life on the edge."

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 "I think that really was engrained in him. He wanted that life of adventure and to a degree, the streets provided that."

Anatole Rybas' family is speaking out about the cracks in the social service system after he was found laying dead on a freezing cold street in Windsor. (photo courtesy of Jordan Jocius)

Three blocks away from where Rybas was found is where the Downtown Mission's overnight warming centre is located. It opened Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Overnight homeless shelters in Windsor-Essex are at capacity and the new, temporary centre is meant to provide warmth for people who may not be able to find a bed at night.

"I think it will make a difference because people will now know even if they don't have a bed, as hard as it is to turn people away for every shelter, at least now the other shelters too will know that this is another resource they can give to someone," said Rukshini Ponniah-Goulin, interim executive director of the Downtown Mission.

The new warming centre accommodates up to 10 people at a time and operates from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. Mission staff will be there to assist and the City of Windsor has agreed to pay for two security guards during that time.

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Anatole Rybas, a man experiencing homelessness in Windsor, was found dead along a freezing cold Ouellette Avenue on Monday night. Now, his nephew Sam Toman is speaking out about the cracks in the social service system.  2:04

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For Rybas, his nephew said he wasn't too fond of shelters and preferred the streets in many ways. Rybas moved to Windsor last March after living in Waterloo for many years.

"He was a really gentle guy. He was not violent at all. I can't even imagine him getting into a fight and that kind of led to him getting taken advantage of in places like that," said Toman. "It wasn't necessarily a safe place for him."

There were also times he said Rybas enjoyed the "comfort and support" of staying with family in a suburban home.

After a while though, he got restless.

"It just didn't have that level of newness, or excitement," said Toman.

A few things Toman said he'll miss are his "bottomless reservoir of dad jokes" and the enthusiastic stories he would share.

"He just wanted to make you laugh," Toman said.