Church of the Ascension, London Deanery, January 28: Informative and passionate presentations, informal discussions, sharing a meal similar to what is provided by food programs to the homeless.
“I put on my bullet proof vest; and headed off to work”.
That was the surprising comment made by Rev. Sarah Armstrong as she described her time in Toronto working with survivors of sex trafficking.
Sarah's remarks opened a very informative roundtable about homelessness co-hosted by two London churches – Ascension and St. Mark's – on Saturday, January 28. What followed were the stories from Jenna and Erica about serving our youth living rough – how they travel around the city trying to find individuals for various reasons; and how those who have aged out of foster care are quickly being groomed by sex traffickers.
To hear from our panel of guests it sounds like the situation is hopeless and that there is little that we can do to make a difference or change it for the better. That was until we started conversations with various people, moving table to table, and realized there is hope, and what we are all doing is making London a better place.
Many of the churches in the Deanery of London are delivering a wide range of outreach, support programs and just a safe place to land. We heard from every part of this deanery about Shoe Drives, Food Cupboards, fruit trees being planted and so much more.
We heard from speakers from Ascension (Steve Holmes), the Diocese of Huron (Rev. Sarah Armstrong), the Middlesex-London Health Unit (Jena), Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Erica), and St. Paul's Social Services (Barb Symington), who talked about not only homelessness but also the related issues of addiction, mental health, and food security in our city.
We also had a chance for informal discussion afterward. And we shared a meal similar to what is provided by food programs to the homeless.
It was well attended, with about 70 people from Anglican, Christian Reformed and United churches as well as the Unitarian Fellowship. A big thank-you to those who shared their experience.
We, the parishes of Ascension and St. Mark's, are looking forward to working together on more projects and making the Anglican Church presence known once again in the east side of London.
Sandra Coulson and Helen Booth
Photo: Donna Thompson