“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58
On the first evening of Joint Assembly, attendees viewed a dramatized presentation on homelessness and housing issues. Narrated by the Rev. Laurette Glasgow and Matthew Brown, “Putting a Face on Homelessness-Giving a Voice to the Homeless” contrasted the time-honoured picture of the sanctity of the home with the stark reality for the 400,000 Canadians who lack a healthy place to live-and the 1.5 million who pay an unsustainable more than 30 per cent of their income for the housing they have.
Glasgow is special adviser for government relations for the Anglican Church of Canada; Brown is youth formation and vocation missioner for the diocese of Ottawa.
The ease with which people can descend into homelessness emerged graphically in “Six Stories in Search of a Homecoming.” In Jennifer’s story, a 35-year-old engineer is living in shelters after 10 years of battling schizophrenia. Alone and embittered, Pierre, a hard-to-employ 53-year-old middle manager has lost his job, house and family. A couple in their late 60s, distraught over the future of their autistic son when they can no longer shelter him, leave him on the doorstep of a government agency. A 17-year-old girl has resorted to living on the mean streets of Vancouver because she can’t find work to pay the rent.
These all-too-common stories and others like them have prompted the Anglican and Lutheran churches to bring forward the Joint Declaration on Homelessness and Affordable Housing. Both denominations will work together to transform the declaration into a living document and end the deplorable conditions that so many call home.
Interspersed with relevant biblical texts and guitar segues, “Putting a Face” also explored the unforgiving economic and demographic forces that promote rising rates of homelessness.
The presentation closed with a special prayer written by the Rev. Ray Simpson to capture the essence of the two churches’ joint commitment to addressing the needs of others. The prayer invokes the “Heavenly One who, although homeless at your birth, made your home with us on earth.”
Other participants included guitarist Zack Ingles and storytellers Lisa Chisholm-Smith, Ron Chaplin, Daniela Gunn-Doerge, Noel Platte, the Rev. Linda Privitera and Shannon Cottrell.