Mar 14, 2014

Homeless People and Empty Churches by Sandra Turner

Painting by Jason
People sleeping out on the streets and numerous large empty buildings with crosses on them. This seems like an odd combination to have in a city. There are many churches in the Kelowna area with large, open areas that seem suited to housing homeless during the night. Homeless shelters face high demand, especially in the winter months. Churches should open their doors in times of high need. Churches could also work with local fire departments in times of evacuation to provide shelter to those affected.

Of course simply allowing homeless people to sleep in churches won't work for many reasons.

  1. Additional liability issues regarding housing people
  2. Community issues regarding increased homeless populations, as any incentive will bring in homeless people from neighboring communities
  3. Churches will need to acquire special permits to get legal permission
  4. The users of the facilities could abuse the privilege in a number of ways including drug use and property damage
  5. There would be an increased expense for the church to provide sleeping materials and heating during cold months
  6. There is an incentive for non-homeless people in the community to use the facilities - for example, I may use the church instead of paying rent on my own place

Each one of these issues will need to be addressed before churches can open their doors.

In the mean time there are other ways to address the issue of homelessness, such as raising money for organizations that provide shelter and other resources for the homeless.

A local homeless shelter, Inn From the Cold, promotes fundraising programs such as "Push to End Homelessness". In this event, well-to-do people organize teams that decorate shopping carts (probably not stolen) and race them through the city. Each team is expected to raise at least $1000, which supports one homeless person to go to the Inn from the Cold for one and a half months. This program seems to be just a fair bit patronizing to the people it is trying to help. It'd be like living in a trailer park and the rich guys down the street organize teams and decorate trailer homes and proceed to race them down a hill... and then give an organization a thousand dollars to help you buy groceries. Of course, no one presumed to get the involvement of the homeless.

How pissed would you be, as a homeless man, watching these ladies run past you?
I'd propose an event or activity that includes both well-to-do people and the homeless. There seems to be an arbitrary gap of association between the two groups of people. This event would have the goal of bridging this gap and creating communication between the groups.
In the end, I believe members of the community should work together to help to worse off members. This help should not simply be voluntary donations or even non-voluntary taxes (and subsequent government spending on the issues), but rather it should be addressed in a personal manner. By engaging with homeless people in a personal matter we can discover the true causes of their situation and be better able to help them instead of simply throwing money at the matter and buying them a month out of the rain here and there.

"Broadly, homelessness is viewed as either the result of individual choices and/or a poor work ethic, or as a symptom of, or response to more complex social problems."  Research Starters Sociology, 2009

Sandra Turner
Writing from her home in Penticton, BC
June 2014

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