20 years and counting
March 27, 2015 @ 8:51 AM by:
Why are we still here?
On January 10, 1995, we joined the Out of the Cold program and opened our church doors to seven homeless people.
It had been a difficult decision for the church and caused an upheaval in the district. Some members objected and left the church in protest. But the majority felt convinced that this was a work that God called us to do. And when God calls, there is no escape, at least if we want to remain on speaking terms with Him.
Back then, I wrote, “Everywhere, in our glittering city, people are huddled in doorways, spread-eagled over warm air vents, sleeping under bridges, begging for handouts on street corners, escaping the icy fist of winter in shopping malls and on subway platforms. And many are dying”
Fast forward to January 2015. Things haven’t changed. They’ve gotten worse. And the words I wrote when we started remain true today -- as is obvious to anyone who reads the over 500 names written on the memorial board outside The Church of the Holy Trinity immediately to the west of the Eaton Centre. These people died on our streets in the shadows of the towers of finance and power. People passed them by, averted their eyes and wondered why the city just didn’t make it a crime to be homeless and mess up public spaces.
Now, on the 20th anniversary of the program at Blythwood, we are hosting around 140 to dinner on Saturday nights and sleeping 70 overnight. Some of our guests have been with us from day one. But they still come to us for a safe, warm, welcoming place to escape the threatening cold of the streets and the deadening loneliness which is often worse.
Many’s the time I have wondered how long we can go on with this program. It’s hard, demanding work. And, I will admit to hoping that it will come to an end and another church will take over and give Blythwood a break. It would, frankly, be a relief.
Volunteers sometimes get burned out and stop coming. When we, on the committee, worry that we cannot continue, I am reminded that this is God’s work and if He wants it to continue he will supply new volunteers. This is not just a pious cliché. It happens over and over again. Churches and groups across the city continue to come and prepare and serve delicious and nourishing meals. People of good will donate money, food and themselves. In our basement on Saturday nights, friendships are made, and, while many would not articulate is this way, the eternal God of love is encountered.
These are just some of the reasons we are still going strong after 20 years.A huge THANK YOU to all our wonderful volunteers. You may not think of yourselves this way but you are a gift of God to us and especially to our guests. A blessed 2015 to you all!
- Dennis Bruce, co-chairman, Blythwood Out of the Cold Committee.
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