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The CHF hosted an All Faiths Breakfast on Tuesday, October 11, as part of the 15th Annual Homeless Awareness Week, in order to raise awareness and garner support among different faith leaders for ending homelessness in Calgary. Key speakers such as Tom Jackson (homeless advocate and actor/singer), Bishop Fred Henry, Tim Hearn (immediate past chair of CHF), and Mayor Naheed Nenshi, encouraged guests to initiate ways their faith communities could help end homelessness in Calgary.
The following is Bishop Fred Henry's remarks during the breakfast:
"Once upon a time there was a town that was just beyond the bend of a large river. One day some of the children from the town were playing beside the river when they noticed three bodies floating in the water. They ran for help and the townsfolk quickly pulled the bodies out of the river.
One body was dead so they buried it. One was alive, but quite ill, so they put that person in the hospital. The third turned out to be a healthy child, who they then placed with a family who cared for it and who took it to school.
From that day on, every day a number of bodies came floating down the river, and every day, the good people of the town would pull them out and tend to them - taking the sick to the hospitals, placing the children with families, and burying those who were dead.
This went on for years; each day brought its own quota of bodies, and the townsfolk not only came to expect a number of bodies each day but also worked at developing more elaborate systems for picking them out of the river and tending to them. Some of the townsfolk became quite generous in tending to these bodies and a few extraordinary ones even gave up their jobs so that they could tend to this concern full-time. And the town itself felt a certain healthy pride in its generosity.
However, during all these years and despite all that generosity and effort, nobody thought to go up the river, beyond the bend that hid from their sight what was above them, and find out why, daily, those bodies came floating down the river.
In many ways this is our story. The Calgary Plan to End Homelessness is the result of going up the river to look at why so many are experiencing the phenomenon of homelessness and in need of an ever-expanding shelter-rescue. The emphasis is on housing first, providing a safe and secure environment, respecting fundamental human dignity and then working on the issues that put people on the street in the first place.
We are experiencing an unprecedented homelessness crisis in Calgary, and it is no longer an option to simply try to reduce it. We must end it. It was precisely that sales-pitch that encouraged me to get involved - to end homelessness, not merely reduce it.
By choosing to end homelessness, we are making an important philosophical and faith based statement. We are saying “We are not willing to accept the homelessness of any of our neighbours.”
Our religious traditions are so rich - Exodus and Exile, so many of the actions of Jesus are home-bringing events. He came especially to the outcasts, displaced, and rejected ones in society (the lepers, the demon possessed, the sick, the lame). And he acted toward them in ways so that they could be "at home" again (Lk.4:16-19). To bring people home is God's work. But it is work entrusted to us.
As religious leaders I would like to suggest that we adopt a Pastoral Methodology - Five Steps:
Together we are strong and can end homelessness and make the kingdom of God more visible in our community."