Anglicans called to help end homelessness

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November 22 is National Housing Day, and both behind the scenes and on the frontlines, Anglicans are calling for an end to homelessness and shortages of affordable housing.The Right to Housing Coalition, of which the diocese of Rupert’s Land is a member, picketed a decommissioned military base in Winnipeg today. Coalition members are protesting the fact that while many families lack affordable housing, more than 100 houses on the base have remained empty for the past five years. These houses, they say, have cost $1.5 million per year to heat and maintain. The coalition is calling on the federal government to permit the houses to be used as transitional housing for eligible families. Virginia Platt, a parishioner at St. Peter’s Anglican church in Winnipeg, is one of the organizers. “Really it was my parish, a United Church and other churches in the neighbourhood of this military base who got the coalition going,” she says. According to information from the coalition, a second informational picket is planned for Steinbach, Man. and will involve a visit to MP Vic Toews constituency office.Platt says that the diocese is also part of a national Anglican-Lutheran housing campaign. It is being co-ordinated by Maylanne Maybee, the eco-justice co-ordinator at the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod offices in Toronto and a network of Anglicans and Lutherans across the country. The campaign is encouraging Anglican and Lutheran bishops to meet their local members of Parliament and frontline housing providers to encourage a stronger response on housing from the federal government, Platt explained. One such meeting of bishops and government officials took place in Winnipeg on November 12. Bishop Don Philips of the Anglican diocese of Rupert’s Land moderated a group discussion that included Ruth Vince, executive director of Evangelical Lutheran Women, Joan Jarvis of the United Church Conference of Manitoba and Northwest Ontario, Pat Martin, the NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre, Anita Neville, Liberal MP for Winnipeg South Centre. A Conservative MP was invited but was unable to attend. Michael Savage, a Nova Scotia Liberal MP who is part of a standing committee reviewing a private member’s bill that calls for a national housing strategy, was also there. Two women who are part of the community served by the St. Matthew’s Maryland Community Ministry, gave first-hand accounts of their struggles to get by when they can’t afford housing. St. Matthew’s Community Ministry is a partnership between St. Matthew’s Anglican Church and Winnipeg Presbytery of the United Church, and runs programs such as a drop-in resource centre and food supplements. Platt says Savage told the group he expects the bill on the national housing strategy, Bill C-304, to be passed in Parliament with support from the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois. He also said the government will still have to be pushed to implement it.Similar advocacy efforts are happening in Anglican dioceses across the country. “The diocese of Toronto has been very active and concerned on housing issues for a few years,” says Murray MacAdam, social justice and advocacy consultant with the Anglican diocese of Toronto. “We’ve educated Anglicans about the issues and we’ve activated a lot of Anglicans.” He mentioned efforts to meet with all of the members of the provincial parliament in the area and a recent meeting with Liberal MP Bob Rae. The diocese is supportive of Bill C-304, too. “We are urging people to support it, and in fact, at the diocese of Toronto, we have posted a petition in the spirit of the bill on our website.” The diocese has also prepared a special bulletin insert (http://www.toronto.anglican.ca/images/Nov_Bulletin_hires.pdf) for this Sunday, linking the reign of Christ with current social justice issues, which MacAdams says includes some suggestions for action on both poverty and housing. He added that the Lutheran Eastern Synod adapted the insert for their own use. It’s signed by both Archbishop Johnson and Lutheran Bishop Michael Pryse.The diocese of Edmonton also hosted a symposium on housing at All Saint’s Cathedral in Edmonton in October that was attended by about 100 people, including Anglican youth, representatives from the municipal and provincial governments and many community partners.

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Leigh Anne Williams
Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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