National Housing Day is being marked today with events across Canada.
“Thousands of Canadians wake up every day in a rundown apartment, a crowded hostel among strangers or even out in the cold,” says Murray MacAdam, social justice and advocacy consultant for the diocese of Toronto. “This tragic situation threatens to become even worse if the federal government does not provide the financial support needed for social housing subsidies. As people of faith inspired by a gospel vision of dignity for all, we need to raise our voices about this.”
Archbishop Colin Johnson of the diocese of Toronto and metropolitan for the ecclesiastical province of Ontario will be speaking at a public rally in Toronto on Nov. 22.
In an interview earlier this week Johnson told the Anglican Journal that said he sees the lack of adequate and affordable housing as both a rights issue and a health issue. “If you are spending a huge amount of your income on rent, and then there’s nothing or very little left over for food, you go to food banks. You are not well fed in food banks, you are not going to die, but [the food] is not nutritious. And then there becomes an increasing cycle of poverty and ill health,” he said. He added that children in such situations are affected and so is their education, particularly if they frequently have to relocate. “It’s a very vicious cycle. The whole notion of respecting people’s dignity that the baptismal covenant calls us to just gets lost.”
Johnson noted that the diocese of Toronto has produced a 5-minute video Out of Poverty: From Charity to Justice that outlines aspects of the issue, including the plight of people who are working but still end up living below the poverty line.
The archbishop also said efforts to provide housing for people can be seen as part of the Anglican Communion’s Marks of Mission because its involves seeking to transform unjust structures and responding to human need by loving service.
When they met in July in Ottawa in a Joint Assembly, the governing bodies of both the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada approved a joint declaration on the issue that committed both churches to work together in raising public awareness and “to discern where and how we can make a difference, to act where we can.”
“National Housing Day is an opportunity for Anglicans and Lutherans to learn and raise awareness about the underlying issues that are related to housing and homelessness in Canada,” said Henriette Thompson, public witness co-ordinator for social and ecological justice for the Anglican Church of Canada
She noted that aboriginal people addressed the joint Anglican-Lutheran assembly in Ottawa. “They spoke about the issue of housing and homelessness as being so real in their own lives and in their families’ lives and in their communities. So whether they come from isolated communities in the north or whether they live in urban areas, the situation of housing and homelessness for aboriginal people in Canada is particularly critical.”
Thompson also recommended learning about a new approach to the issue known as Housing First. It’s an approach that makes a move from homelessness to stable housing the first priority, rather than older models that required people to graduate through a series of steps before getting into permanent housing, according to information from the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.
Thompson added that National Housing Day is also an opportunity to recognize and lift up the efforts of all those involved in community level work to find and secure housing for people.
The following prayer, written by Ray Simpson, founding guardian of the international Community of Aidan and Hilda, was offered at Joint Assembly in Ottawa in July.
Prayer for those who are homeless and precariously housed
Who although homeless at your birth,
Made your home with us on earth,
And thus marked each with divine dignity:
Imbue us with your mercy
Inspire us to offer each of your children
A safe home,
That we may live on earth
As they do in heaven.