Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Out Of The Cold" - David

Last night it felt like - 31 below (Celcius)
Freezing temperatures across much of Canada and USA make most people happy to be indoors.

There is one group of people for whom this is a terrible season. The homeless. In our city hundreds of home
less people need a place to stay on these frigid nights.

For 18 years our church in Toronto has been part of the Out Of The Cold movement. Starting in November and lasting until April, our church hosts 60 persons each Wednesday night. Volunteers serve a hot meal at 7:00 pm and a hot breakfast at 7:00 am. Our guests sleep in the gymnasium on mattresses and an atmosphere of safety is provided by a team that stays all night long. In our church the volunteers are split up into four teams so that we come in to serve the homeless once a month.

The next night, on Thursday, another church is open to this group and so, during a week, these 60 men (mostly) and women find a place to stay out of the cold.

In our kitchen a simple sign is posted that says it all: "In the face of each guest we see the face of Christ, the one we serve." I am deeply moved by this as I spend the night shift, mostly talking with those who find sleeping difficult.

Some ask, "Why don't they just get a job?, or "Why are they homeless?"

I believe that much of this homelessness is the result of mental imbalance, some of it going back into the childhood of our guests. I've had long conversations, sometimes as long as five hours, with people. There's no time to read during the night shift - people want to talk. Mental illness that is not associated with violence is troubling indeed. Perhaps 80% of our our guests carry their scars due to mental illness. There is no easy solution here, no, "What's your plan to get out of this predicament?"

And, another group, perhaps 20%, are here because their jobs have disappeared. This is especially the case in Northern Ontario. Men come from the small cities where they had jobs in the forestry, mining or pulp-and-paper businesses. As these left Ontario's north land, men drift to the city. They have difficulty in finding a job...and find something they didn't want: homelessness.

Talking with a homeless man...(or several at one time)..."is receiving the guest Christ sent to us."

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