By Rev. Andrew Wilson
I hope you know that facts will not change an emotional issue. As for me, I tend to counter emotional arguments with facts, which in itself is my emotional response.
The fact is: homelessness causes far more problems and is far more expensive to deal with its consequences than its prevention. The fact is: homeless leads to crime, drugs and other “socially inacceptable behavior.”
Well, what do we expect? What do we think the homeless do with their time, and how do they find what they need? These are the consequences of inaction.
My experience has been that people in this situation are very, very hard to help for many, many reasons. The simplest way to put it, I believe, is they are surviving, day by day. I am living that right now as we have provided space for another tent for another couple, victims of their own fears and inadequacies, unable to follow through on even the simplest of directions even though they are in a child’s tent in the rain.
My friend Allissa Enns told you in one of the previous issues of the Huron Church News about her plans for South Essex Community Council (SECC), how she was collecting data and formulating a plan for my town so we can deal with the consequences of lives falling apart.
The plan is thicker than I expected, but well done and balanced; it has both stories and facts. It has some of the people we helped, and, believe me, it was hard.
Here is a refrain for you: to save your life, I need you to do 20 push-ups. You need to work up to that, but the day you can, you will be fine. Now: list all the reasons for me why you are not on the floor doing it right now. You need to do 20 push-ups, or you will die. Everybody but you knows you can do it, but the only person who needs to know is you. That is the issue. What does it cost to deal with you not doing the push-ups? What is the human toll and expense?
Every study, every worker has the same conclusion: homes first. Stability starts with a stable home. That is only a start – we need to get to the 20 push-ups. Emotionally, we resent spending money on “free” housing, we resent spending money on workers when people “should know better.” How many push-ups have you done so far?
It was a bit cooler-hot and sunny day at the Town Hall. Friday, September 17, the report was presented. Our Mayor, Hilda MacDonlad, the SECC director Carolyn Warkertin, and Alissa as the Project Leader, and a few others spoke to it. Homelessness is an emergency, and emergency services deal with it. Police move them along, but they have no where to go.
A tent city in Toronto was shut down; there was nowhere to go, and the exercise was said to have cost about two million dollars.
Here is a fact: when these people end up in hospital, it can cost $10,000, jail over $4,000, a shelter $2,000, but a home: TWO HUNDRED. That is a start.
The couple on the lawn have been moved around. Friends are storing their things, but have no place for them. They have been moved from the forest behind a retirement home, grocery store, and were last under a trailer behind our bandshell.
I have asked them to do push-ups. I have been firm and honest, and I hope pastoral. They have already violated my trust, which I understand: they are used to surviving, which will take time to unlearn.
Will they unlearn that while living in a tent, wandering town during the day?
In addition... the last-minute notes:
Two people asked if they could buy and live in the van that we have been storing from the last person living in it. The van needs repair. The SECC called and asked if a homeless man can live in their cor on our lot. Someone appeared in a tent this morning. The one person's family had a car accident in London and are all in hospital. I made them a camp toilet as there is nowhere to go if im not here. Lots of visitors including LAW of Windsor to help with paperwork and OW/UI... No food, but the local pizza guy helped last night. Is less more or more less?
As I write this, Deacon Debbie is preparing our weekly meal with our volunteers, and in our gym is the couple and another homeless man who was drenched – they are currently sorting and folding all the clothes we have for our Angel cupboard.
At five o’clock they were joined by another homeless couple, evicted the first of the month. Hours of phone calls, but still we could not get them into a motel, so they both stayed on the lawn, one in a half decent tent, the other in the first couple’s child’s play tent.
I invite you to engage with the report, I will not boil it down for space, but also as there are different details and perhaps one of them will speak to you and you too will find a ministry there. You will see how many people are indeed involved in this issue... Good people like you... All of them with both limited resources and time.
Please pray that we can finally create a space where we can live the Gospel, we need the next step after feeding and clothing. See the report: https://www.secc.on.ca/findinghome/
Rev. Andrew Wilson is the rector of St. John the Evangelist, Leamington.
Photo: This is where sometimes you sleep at night - the "tent city" at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Leamington, Ontario