Homily on Homelessness, March 20, 2005

Since this sermon was given St. Clare’s has been recommended for funding for two more housing projects—200 Madison and 48 Abell.

NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT HOMILY
10:30 A.M. Sunday, March 20, 2005
Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church
427 Bloor St. East (Toronto)

We know what heaven is like.
“In my father’s house are many rooms.
If it were not so, would I have told you that I go
to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2).

And we know what Toronto is like. In our city are many heating grates; in our city are many file folders full of names of our sisters and brothers seeking a home.

In the midst of our city are many trying to bring to life in the present heaven’s promise.

This is done through protests and petitions. It is done through opening up sanctuary spaces for temporary resting places. It is done by squatting empty buildings. And it is done by those that weave together funds from various sources to develop new housing.

St. Clare’s is one effort to address the needs of the homeless in Toronto. Specifically, we are trying to develop and provide homes for those in the shelter system—those that are not necessarily visibly homeless, but none-the-less among the most marginal in our community. Some need ongoing support to live with dignity; others face only the cost of the housing as a barrier to having a home. And if a place is found for a home to be built and resources obtained to build the housing, all too often voices are raised against having poor people move into a neighbourhood. Canada has argued in the global arena, particularly at the UN Habitat 1 and Habitat II conferences that housing is a right—but this had not been transferred into an effective housing programme or even Human Rights Tribunal rulings that municipal by-laws and practices treat housing for the poor differently than housing for others.

St. Clare’s has been fortunate—we have found financial support from congregations and all levels of government; we have found ways to work with our neighbours; we have been successful, from the Committee of Adjustment level to the Ontario Court of Appeal, in putting forward our view that the types of housing we are attempting to create should go ahead.

At the end of the day, we have created close to 150 units of affordable housing and will have an additional 26 units by the end of the summer. 12 of our units are market units; the rest are rent-geared to income. At 25 Leonard and 138 Pears there are permanent homes for those who previously had only the insecure havens of one of the many shelters in Toronto.

Over 75,000 households are on the Toronto Social Housing Connections waiting list. Most people in the shelter system are not on these lists, nor are the numbers from those on the subsidy waiting lists of federally funded co-operatives on the centralised waiting list. The need is immense.

Those of us from the Christian faith have few definitive requirements for heaven—but being actively involved in practically addressing the needs of all is a certain requirement:

“Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirst, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ ” Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matthew 25: 41b – 45)

There is a home for everyone in heaven. Our shared calling is to ensure
that those who are homeless don’t have to wait until then to have
a home.

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