Our phone has been ringing off the hook all month.
And that is just today!
Our existing shelter systems are just not working. Toronto has the largest homeless shelter system in Canada, yet all of their city run shelters are full to capacity and turning people away in droves. The refugee-specific shelters are full too. It’s the same situation in all the major cities across our country. It felt like a crisis before the pandemic, but now the cracks that already existed are gaping wider and wider and exposing a system that is completely falling apart.
One of the reasons that shelters are constantly full is that people have nowhere to move to. Have you seen the cost of renting an apartment lately? $1,450 a month. That’s the average cost to rent a 1-bedroom apartment in our midsize city in Ontario. It’s even more in Toronto. And in Vancouver it is a whopping $2,200! What do you do when you are a newly arrived refugee waiting for a work permit and your entire monthly income is only $733? There are no easy answers.
What can we do? Do local churches have anything to offer in response to the current housing crisis? IAFR Canada thinks so! We dream of seeing churches becoming vitally involved in both initial short-term housing solutions as well as safe, affordable long-term options.
You might be surprised at some of the ways that churches can make a difference. And you don’t have to be a big, wealthy church to get in on the action. There is a whole spectrum of opportunities for churches of all shapes and sizes to make a difference.
When the house next door to a small church in the east end of Hamilton went up for sale they recognized it as a unique opportunity and decided to buy it. After considering numerous options for how to use it, they chose to rent it out to a family from Haiti who was going through the refugee claim process. They rented it to this family at below market rental rates which allowed them to get on their feet while they were working hard to get Canadian credentials and find suitable work. The church became good neighbours for this family and many dropped by to get to know them. The kids loved running next door to the church for Kids Club and Sunday School. The three or so years that this family lived there gave them the stability they needed to begin their life in Canada.
On a bigger scale, a number of churches in Ontario are partnering with Indwell, a Christian housing charity, to transform part of their properties into affordable housing units. The Baptist church in the neighbourhood where I live recently built a new church worship centre that also includes 45 units of affordable housing. That’s 45 people who now have a beautifully designed, safe, affordable home with built in community support! That’s a pretty big deal
Let me share a few ideas to spark your imagination for ways your church might respond in the midst of this housing crisis we find ourselves in-
What innovative responses might God want your church to pursue?
IAFR is committed to helping churches grow in understanding God’s expectations for His people in how we treat the forcibly displaced. We delight in seeing local churches discover ways to come alongside refugees in ways that uniquely fit who they are as a congregation. So if the Spirit is nudging your church to explore ways that you can be part of making a positive difference, please contact us. We would love to dream, pray, and discern possibilities with you!
Today we helped a young refugee couple and their infant son move into an apartment after a three month stay in a Host home. They sent us a text: “Thank you very much for helping us in this beautiful country of very kind people… after everything my family has been through, today is a very nice day to dream again.”
Amen. May we all begin to dream again.
Our vision is to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. We do this together with the church, both globally, and locally in Canada.