Re: Homeless and Needy assistance programs...

Paul York (stephen.york@utoronto.ca)
Tue, 2 Feb 1999 14:33:00 PST


A distinction should be drawn between charity, which addresses the symptoms of 
poverty, and social justice advocacy, which addresses the root causes of social ills.

The Christian church--meaning the institution of the church, not the actual church 
which is universal in scope--has traditionally been engaged in the business of 
charity, while ignoring or giving short shrift to social justice.

On many occasions the institutional church has been complicit in the structures of 
society which perpetuate inequity. Vatican II represented a shift toward 
recognition of social justice. Liberation theology was a further expression of 
this. Most of the mainstream moderate Protestant denominations have made this 
shift as well.

The issue of homelessness is a perfect illustration of this dynamic: providing 
temporary emergency shelter for the homeless is noble and saves lives but does 
nothing to solve the larger issue, which is lack of safe, secure, affordable housing.

This larger problem can be addressed by advocating for government funding for 
social housing and the government imposition of strong rent controls and 
maintenance standards in the private sector, to prevent rent gouing and economic 
evictions and slum conditions.

Some church groups have managed to acheive both charity and a partial solution 
by building social housing. Thorncliffe Park United Church in Toronto is a perfect 
example: adjoined to the church building is a non-profit seniors housing project, 
funded in part by the church.

In Ontario at least there is no government funding for social housing. That is why it 
is especially important that church and philanthropic groups do what they can to 
alleviate the housing shortage.

At the same time, the church hierarchy can add its voice to homeless activists and 
people of good conscience by urging government bodies to reinstitute funding for 
social housing--in Canada what is referred to as the "one per cent solution."

- Paul York

On Tue, 2 Feb 1999 13:10:16 -0500 Agent Smiley wrote:
> >Not sure if this is the right group to post to but I wanted to ask
> something. I am working on a homeless and needy assistance program for 
> my church. I would love any input from anyone about what they think 
> would actually work in such a program.
. . .
> >Thank you for your time.
> >
> >yours in faith,
> >Fr. S. Yancey HP