By Colleen Sym
Published: April 2008
Related Topics: Social Justice
The phrase has a different impact on the individuals and families experiencing homelessness who when shelters are full to overflowing are turned away because there is no room. A report On any given Night: Measuring Homelessness in Hamilton 2007 edition indicates that the number of people accessing shelters in Hamilton on a given night in November has doubled since 1995. In 2006, one emergency shelter for women experiencing homelessness turned away women 878 times due to the shelter being at full capacity.
In Halton, with a much different demographic from Hamilton, 1402 requests were received for emergency housing, a 119% increase since 2002. The Halton Region Annual Housing Report 2007 notes that emergency shelter options are almost always operating a full capacity. In 2006, the emergency shelter for women and their children turned away 480 women due to a lack of space.
If Mary and Joseph were homeless today they might very well have ended up in a stable because there was no room at the shelter.
Anglicans all across the country have taken notice of the housing situation and their faith is calling them to take action, and speak up and ask their politicians to take action to address the issues.
Here in Niagara we have completed six visits with MPPs. The visits were done to assist the Toronto Diocese with their affordable housing campaign. We were able to meet with all four of the Halton MPPs, Kevin Flynn, Joyce Savoline, Ted Arnot and Ted Chudleigh as well as with Hamilton MPP Andrea Horvath and the Hon. Ted McMeekin, MPP for Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Westdale and Minister of Government and Consumer Services.
On February 14, I was joined at my meeting with Joyce Savoline by Kathleen Szoke of St. Luke's Burlington. She is a member of that parish's outreach committee and an expert in affordable housing issues in Halton.
On February 15 we were able to put together a delegation from the diocese. Four of us met with Minister McMeekin: myself, Sue-Ann Ward, the vicar at the Cathedral, Bill Mous a third year theological student who works at St. James Dundas and Susan Andrews, a parishoner at the Cathedral with a long history of involvement in social and supportive housing in Hamilton.
Kathleen and Susan became involved in the visits after reading my article on affordable housing in the Niagara Anglican. Several others also contacted me after reading the article but were unable to join in the visits, I thank them for their interest and assure them that the work is not over, their help is still needed.
At all the meetings, we were graciously received by the MPPs. Assisting in the Toronto campaign was an opportunity for members of the Diocese to participate in the meetings to raise support for policies and action on affordable housing but was also an opportunity to raise awareness of the MPPs that Bishop Bird has indicated that outreach will be a priority under his leadership. It was also an opportunity to establish our bona fides as social justice advocates.
Minister McMeekin was especially gracious in that he provided us with advocacy workshop materials for a workshop he had once done for the Toronto Diocese.
In Toronto, by mid-March, 20 such meetings will have been held, involving more than 100 people, and more meetings were in the works. Colin Johnson, Bishop of Toronto, met with the Hon. Jim Watson, Ontario's Minister of Housing in December, while Bishop George Elliott and Bishop Philip Poole also met with MPPs. These meetings focused on specific proposals to provide 20,000 affordable housing units during the government's four-year mandate, to provide housing for the frail elderly, to repair rundown non-profit housing, and to help the working poor through a $10 per hour minimum wage....
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