National Youth Project inspires homelessness education

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Angie Hocking (left), director of outreach at Church of the Redeemer in Toronto, leads a workshop on homelessness at the diocese of Algoma youth synod. Photo by Jesslynn Emms

Welcome … Home, the National Youth Project (NYP) for 2018-2020 focused on homelessness and affordable housing, is moving ahead with a new website and multiple new resources available online.

The NYP traditionally kicks off at the Canadian Lutheran Anglican Youth (CLAY) gathering, and Welcome … Home officially launched at last year’s CLAY event in Thunder Bay. With the release of a revamped CLAY website at claygathering.ca, new and existing resources to encourage education on homelessness can now be found there.

While the resources are primarily targeted at church youth group leaders, Sheilagh McGlynn, national youth animator for the Anglican Church of Canada, suggests that many other people could benefit.

“To be honest, I think that even groups beyond youth could use these,” McGlynn says. “I feel like any group that is interested in this issue could take on one of these and learn something from it, or learn something about their community.”

Photo: Contributed

Four downloadable resources were available on the CLAY website at the time this article was written. An “Introduction Activity” offers questions for reflection on homelessness. The “Postcard Project” involves sending postcards to the prime minister and members of parliament imploring them to launch a new National Housing Strategy over the next 10 years.

The “Open Door Group Activity” describes work of the Open Door shelter, a drop-in centre in downtown Montreal that provides service for homeless and low-income people, and it adds related questions for biblical reflection. The “Libraries Group Activity” presents discussion questions on the importance of libraries as a place where homeless people can stay indoors, use computers and the internet, and access community services.

Several other resources were expected to be posted on the CLAY website by November. One activity, “Community Asset Mapping,” asks youth to reflect on the community around their church, where homeless people congregate and what resources might be available to them. After walking around the neighbourhood, youth draw a map showing their church in relation to the sights they recorded.

“It’s a way for a youth group or a church community to look at their position in the realm of homelessness, and what they can do,” McGlynn says.

A book study encourages conversation on the young adult novel No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. The book tells the story of a teenager who lives in a van while maintaining a façade at school that they are living somewhere else.

“Nobody Dreams of Being Homeless” is an activity in which youth groups watch video clips interviewing homeless people from a range of ages and backgrounds. Groups then discuss how the individuals ended up in their current situation, their hopes and their dreams.

“The Amazing Race,” inspired by the TV series of the same name, involves youth travelling to different places in their community and carrying out tasks. Other resources in the works include activities focusing on mental health and homelessness, rural perspectives on homelessness and advocacy projects to change the reality of homelessness.

Since the launch of the NYP at CLAY 2018, Anglican youth leaders have been proactive in organizing activities to educate people on homelessness.

Last spring, Anglican and Lutheran youth leaders at their annual gathering Stronger Together went on a community walking tour around downtown Calgary similar to the asset mapping activity. On this walk they noted concentrations of homeless people as well as resources such as libraries and the local Salvation Army office.

In the diocese of Algoma, Anglicans took inspiration from the NYP for their diocesan youth synod at Camp Manitou from June 30-July 3. The youth synod was built around the theme Jesus in the Streets and focused on the question of homelessness, particularly as it affects young people and youth with mental health issues.

“We chose to do this and a lot of other efforts either with youth or even congregations in general in response to Welcome … Home,” Jay Koyle, diocesan congregational development officer, says. “Homelessness has been on the radar of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario,” he adds, pointing to examples such as the rise of people living on the streets of Sault Ste. Marie due to the opioid crisis.

Angie Hocking, director of outreach at the Church of the Redeemer in Toronto—where she oversees a drop-in program providing meals and services to homeless individuals and others—led five workshops on homelessness at the youth synod.

The workshops drew inspiration from and were similar to the NYP but were ultimately Hocking’s own creations. For example, one workshop, “Inspiring Action,” looked at how churches are acting as ministries of justice within their communities.

“It was super exciting and super inspiring just to realize that we are the church and that is what we’re here for,” Hocking says. “We are here especially for the marginalized, and Jesus is here especially for the marginalized.”

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Matt Gardner
Matt Gardner is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Gardner worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Gardner has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He will continue to support corporate communications efforts during his time at the Journal.

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