Wednesday, January 03, 2018
Generosity & Justice for the Homeless
A good news story has emerged in the past couple of days about a woman in Toronto, Jennifer Evans, who responded to word that homeless people and those who work on their behalf were being told that shelters were unable to accommodate more guests. She used social media to ask if there were people who could open up their homes or provide funding to rent hotel rooms for those who might otherwise be on the streets through these bitterly cold nights. Many people responded, including Mohamad Fakhih, the owner of a food supply company. He stepped forward to provide funds for a number of rooms, as well as feeding folk. His generous offer was for three nights, which is a considerable expense. What a reminder of the kindness of people in response to the needs of those who are often invisible in our society.
Meanwhile, there have been claims that there was miscommunication about the availability of shelter spaces and that centres have unused capacity. And those who are on the front lines of providing services to the indigent insist that this assurance that beds were available is "gaming the system" on the part of the city. A former street pastor in Toronto says this has been going on for years. As an example, a family of three might be put up in a room with five beds. Obviously those other two beds can't be filled by strangers, yet they are counted as available. In a number of shelters people are sleeping on cots or mattresses in hallways. The pastor insists that rather than the 94% capacity claimed by the city it is more like 105%.
Can you imagine trying to survive outside during this weather? I'm nervous about letting our insistently outdoor cats go out into this intense cold.
You may recall a blog entry from last year about the Timothy Schmaltz Homeless Jesus sculpture in Hamilton which resulted in people calling 911 because they mistook it for an actual person. Again, it's good to know that people care. Still, we need to understand the issues of homelessness better, and to insist that all levels of government develop strategies which address root causes including the lack of affordable housing. Christ calls out to us from the streets, insisting on both compassion and justice.