June cover image: homeless elderly woman's hand held out.

Vol 23 No 4 June 2008


National Bishops's Turn

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Lucia Carruthers—Editor
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One Small Step

There is no quick fix for the homeless.

When I asked each of our synods to share what they were doing for the homeless, I was inundated with stories from congregations that were passionately involved in a whole range of efforts, from collecting clean socks for the neighbourhood street people to those involved in large-scale initiatives to build affordable housing for the poor (see page 18 of the Synod of Alberta and the Territories section for one example). It's clear that homelessness is an issue that is close to our hearts, which makes sense. Churches throughout history have served as a social safety net, making the poor and homeless a central part of their mission. And we continue to serve that important role when government services fall short.

Many believe that these efforts—offering temporary shelter during the winter or a monthly meal, as so many of our congregations do—are simply stop-gap measures that can't possibly solve a problem so widespread that it affects virtually every city in Canada. Maybe that's true. But just because we can't do everything doesn't mean we shouldn't do something. The truth is, homelessness is a complex issue. Mental illness, the lack of affordable housing, welfare incomes that fall below the poverty line, family violence, low minimum wages, cancellation of government-supported services, addiction, and politics all play a part. So what can we do? Plenty. Our cover story on page 9 was intended to share some of the creative ways congregations are helping the homeless. Our goal: to inspire your congregation to take action. And while Christ has taught us that, at the very least, we must provide food, shelter, and companionship, we can do even more. We can educate ourselves and our congregations about the underlying causes of poverty, and we can partner with and support programs that follow a "housing-first" mandate. These organizations are committed to providing safe, affordable homes so individuals can begin their journey toward mental or physical recovery and financial stability.

Ultimately, solving poverty will require a national strategy. So if you and your congregation want to do one small thing to help the homeless, consider writing to, visiting with, and lobbying your government representatives to encourage the kind of full-service medical, mental health, addiction treatment, and poverty-reduction strategies that will truly make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of our fellow Canadians. On page 12, you'll find instructions and resources to help you join the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in a national letter-writing campaign to our political leaders.

Homelessness has been called a crisis without an audience. Now we are called by the National Church and by our commitment to compassionate justice to demand an audience and speak for those who have no voice.

Lucia Carruthers, Editor