Open Doors Spiritual Matters: Churches see permanent and safe housing as a right

Plans are in the works for a supportive housing building in East York to help those who are exiting homelessness.

By MICHAEL VAN DUSEN

“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, …Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

The above quote from the gospel of Matthew 25 represents a foundation of the church’s theology of compassion for the neighbour.

It seems axiomatic that homes are essential for stability.

• Address for mail, identification such as driver’s license, OHIP card.
• Shelter from cold, heat, rain and wind
• A secure place to leave one’s belongings
• A place of privacy and rest

Churches see housing as a right. For the past 17 years, St. Aidan’s has operated an Out of the Cold program, most recently operating at out of our partner church Beach United Church (while St. Aidan’s has been under renovation).

Even as we addressed the needs of people who had no permanent home, we recognized that OOTC was not a permanent solution.

Causing people to move from place to place every night for shelter and a meal was only a bandage on a broken system.

We were meeting an existential need, while we advocated for a more permanent and structural solution than volunteer-run faith communities could provide.

We applaud the city for offering people shelter in hotels as an alternative to living in parks, even while we recognize that shelters, while better, are not a long-term solution.

Building supportive housing is a real solution to the issue of people experiencing homelessness and we welcome the fact that it is happening in our neighbourhood.

• Supportive housing recognizes that some people have needs that are not met by merely giving them a key and walking away.
• Supportive housing provides specialized support and round the clock staffing to respond to the acute needs of people who had become homeless for a variety of mental health or addiction issues.

At the same time, we regret and reject the hostility that has been used to characterize the potential residents and the councillor by a few in the community.

These are our neighbours, who live in the community, perhaps invisibly, but they are there.

There is one supportive housing building being developed for Trenton/Cedervale in the north part of Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford’s ward. And there will be more in the area, closer to the Beach.

People in our church communities live near these sites and we will continue to work with the people who will be their neighbours and with the councillor to ensure that the residents feel welcomed into the community.

We encourage others to do the same.

To paraphrase a quote attributed to Gandhi, “The measure of our civilization is how we treat the least fortunate in society.”

Michael Van Dusen is a deacon at St. Aidan’s Anglican church on Queen Street East in the Beach.


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