The season of winter doesn’t officially begin until December 21st, but by late October or early November, we are beginning to feel the bite of cold weather, wind, and snow. Snow storms are not unusual—I think back to the many times when going trick-or-treating on Halloween involved braving the cold temperatures in coats, mitts, caps, and scarves on top of our costumes.
Bundling up in bad weather is a nuisance for most of us—but it’s just that, a nuisance. It’s not an impossibility or even a challenge. However, there are those for whom warm clothes, coats, boots, mitts, and scarves are simply out of reach. In October, those involved in the ministry of the Open Door in Corner Brook will, for two weeks running, offer coats and boots for the guests who visit weekly. These are people who are food insecure, who live below the poverty level or who are homeless.
A visit to the Statistics Canada Website turns up this: “Homelessness is a widespread social concern in Canada and many other developed countries. More than 235,000 people in Canada experience homelessness in any given year, and 25,000 to 35,000 people may be experiencing homelessness on any given night. Homelessness can encompass a range of circumstances, including living on the streets or in places not meant for habitation; staying in overnight or emergency shelters; living temporarily as a “hidden” homeless person with friends, family or strangers, or in motels, hostels or rooming houses; and residing in precarious or inadequate housing.”
Those are sobering statistics. But it gets worse. The resource on homelessness on the Anglican Church of Canada website, www.anglican.ca estimates even more: “An estimated 400,000 people in Canada do not have a healthy place to live. Many in our society, notably the working poor, are unable to find affordable housing while others who are amongst the most vulnerable in our society lack a place called ‘home.’”
In 2013, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada gathered in Ottawa for Joint Assembly. Together, Anglicans and Lutherans unanimously endorsed a shared commitment to:
- learn more about the issues contributing to poverty, homelessness, and substandard housing
- to act to support existing initiatives
- to advocate renewed federal funding and a national housing strategy
- to pray for safe, affordable housing for all
As winter approaches, homelessness becomes an even more serious problem, especially in our country, prone to such extreme weather. Some will experience frostbite or die of exposure.
All of this should make us feel very uneasy. In fact, we should feel outrage that in a country as rich as Canada, this would be the case. We know that our province of Newfoundland and Labrador has its challenges but compared to so many in our world, we are still very well off. And no person, no child of God, in this province, or any other, should be homeless. We should and can do better than that. God calls us to do better than that.