Homelessness is NOT a choice! You can help end it.

Homelessness? “That’s not a choice anyone makes,” said author Denise Davy on TVO’s The Agenda on March 2, 2021. Her book, Her Name Was Margaret, led Davy into the world of homeless people, a world we rarely see, living in Leaside. With staying at home more, many of us haven’t even seen a homeless person in the past year. Although out of sight, homelessness has not been out of mind for Northlea United Church (NUC). Whether in YouTube Sunday services or Zoom discussion groups, social issues surface – like racism, homelessness and climate change. In the fall, we learned there were about 10,000 homeless people in Toronto, vulnerable to COVID-19 infection in shelters and on the street. The city created more indoor spaces, many in hotels. But with social distancing and limited spaces, there weren’t enough beds. Out of the Cold programs couldn’t provide overnight accommodation or indoor dining, but some mobilized volunteers and resources to hand out toiletries and takeout meals. Then we heard about the growing size and number of encampments in Toronto parks where, by December, there had been more than 240 fires. On February 17, a man died in such a fire. 

NUC community members have always tried to make a difference locally and globally, participating in food drives, resettling Syrian refugees, volunteering in Flemingdon Park – trying to improve the lives of people near and far. With Toronto COVID-19 cases rising, we knew there was a homelessness crisis. What could we do while in lockdown, with pandemic protocols continuing for the foreseeable future? How could we reach out to neighbours? 

A plan developed. Using NUC’s website, its weekly e-letters, its outdoor sign and Facebook, we are extending a community-wide invitation to address homelessness in Toronto. We invite Leasiders to visit www.northleachurch.ca for one-stop access to: 

• Donate. The money will go to a charitable organization serving homeless people. Click the “DONATE NOW” button and securely donate through Canada Helps. Or cheques can be made out to Northlea United Church, indicating “Homeless Project,” and mailed to 125 Brentcliffe Rd. Toronto M4G 3Y7.

• Learn. Follow links to information sources and videos. 

• Write letters. Use provided letter templates and write to political representatives asking them to prioritize ending homelessness in Toronto. 

We’ve not only learned that “homelessness is NOT a choice,” but also that we can end it. We know because it’s been ended in many cities and countries around the world. “We know how to do it,” said Denise Davy. “It’s supportive housing…and community support.” Isn’t it time homelessness ended in Toronto? Accept NUC’s invitation and together let’s do it!

Anne Saunders is the Interim Mission Coordinator at Northlea United.