Causeway: A way for the church to get involved

One of the programs we do in downtown Toronto is a shelter called Causeway. The idea for Causeway comes out of an ongoing awareness of and discontent with the fact that many of the men and women who leave shelters and find housing end up feeling isolated and alone in their new apartments.

Ultimately, many lose their housing for one reason or another stemming from that loneliness. They then end up back in the shelter system because it’s the closest thing to ‘home’ that they know. This is mostly due to the fact that while they live in shelters they have community, but when they move into their own apartments, they are all alone with no friends or family and no idea how to begin finding community in their neighbourhood.

We also know that many committed Christians are asking regularly, ‘How do we get involved?’ Many Christ-followers really want to do something more than sit in the pew each Sunday. There is a stirring in people’s souls that they want to do something about injustice and poverty, but they really do not know what that can look like while they have jobs and family responsibilities. They want to roll up their sleeves and help, but don’t know where to start.

Causeway addresses both of these realities. In fact, the word “Causeway” comes from this concept of bridging a gap. A Causeway is a person-made bridge between two previously separated and impossible-to-connect bodies.

The bridge that the Causeway initiative is trying to create is between the rich and the poor, between people with resources and people who lack them, between the local church and inner city ministries, between people who have community and people who desire it.

Causeway is not a social service program. It is not about providing ‘services’ to ‘clients’. It is an initiative that only can work if both parties involved understand that the friendships being created can and will be mutually beneficial.

The Salvation Army Toronto Housing and Homeless Supports (www.torontohhs.org) runs about 600 shelter beds for men and women. Due to the volume of people being housed each month and the small number of housing support workers on our staff, the follow-up supports are difficult if not impossible to provide. The numbers are simply too great for our staff to manage. As a result, we often see people that we house eventually lose their housing and come back to us. This is referred to as ‘recidivism’.

The Causeway initiative believes that while there are not enough ‘professionals’ to provide follow-up supports to these individuals, there are more than enough committed Christians in churches all across Toronto that could.

We believe that part of the Christian imperative is to befriend people in the margins of society (Micah 6:8, James 1:27, Matt. 25:31-46). Causeway is providing an avenue for Christians to respond to the gospel in very practical and vital ways.

Invitation

The Causeway Initiative invites members of the church to join together to “walk the walk” with individuals who have recently experienced homelessness. The road to healing is often frustrating and those beginning the journey need a friend to guide and encourage them through the obstacles they will face.

This initiative is developed to encourage people of Christ-like compassion to develop “unlikely friendships” by providing presence, guidance, and support. The help of compassionate Christian community members is needed to ensure a positive and successful journey for the individuals who are beginning their walk toward wholeness.

When these 2 people groups come together, they learn that they both have something to offer each other.

Ultimately, our hope is that they all will learn how much we need each other.

If you’d like to learn more about how you might implement Causeway in your city or town, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Dion Oxford is the Mission Strategist for The Salvation Army's five homeless shelters in Toronto, called Housing and Homeless Supports torontohhs.org. Dion along with his wife, Erinn, and daughter, Cate, live in Toronto and are committed to journeying alongside people in the margins of society. He blogs at dionoxford.com